Skip to main content

Full text of "Mary Sumner, her life and work"

See other formats


FROM-THE LIBRARY OF 
TRINITYCOLLEGETORDNTO 




From the Library of 

Brian Heeney 
Given by his Family 



SI # . t*S**«~4 



MARY SUMNER 
Her Life and Work 



MARY SUMNER 

Her Life and Work 



Part I. — Memoir of Mrs. Sumner 
By MARY PORTER 

Part II.— A Short History of the Mothers' Union 
By MARY WOODWARD 

Compiled from the manuscript History of the Society written by the 

LADY HORATIA ERSKINE 



WINCHESTER: WARREN & SON LIMITED 
1921. 



PRINTED BY WARREN AND SON LTD. WINCHESTER 



11 
1 1 

MAP 1 lope; 



CONTENTS 



PART I. MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER. 

Page 
Foreword by the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ix 

Author's Preface ... ... ... ... ... ... xi 

Chapter I. — HARVEST 1-3 

Mrs. Sumner's Funeral. 

Chapter II.— HOPE END (1828—1848) 4-10 

Early home and childhood — Eliz. Barrett Browning — 
Mr. and Mrs. Heywood — Education — Winter in Rome — 
Mr. George Sumner — Marriage. 

Chapter III.— OLD ALRESFORD (1849—1885) 11-24 

Early married life — Motherhood — Life at Old Alresford 
Rectory — Meetings for Women and for Men — Mr. Sumner's 
preferments — First beginnings of a Mothers' Union — Ports 
mouth Church Congress — Mrs. Wilberforce's reminiscence. 

Chapter IV. — WINCHESTER — THE FIRST TEN YEARS 

(1886—1896) 25-35 

Removal to Winchester — Pioneer Work for the M.U. — 
The first Diocesan Conference — Fundamental Principles — 
Card of Membership — Bishop Sumner's Consecration — 
Rapid growth of the M.U. — Mrs. Sumner elected first Central 
President. 

Chapter V. — OVERSEAS 36-43 

Extension of M.U. Overseas — Letters from China and 
Madagascar — Messages from other places — Bishop and 
Mrs. Sumner's Golden Wedding. 

Chapter VI.— AN ENDING (1898—1909) 44-59 

Mrs. Sumner's work as Central President, and as Speaker 
—Her advice to Speakers— The first Albert Hall Meeting- 
Home Life — Illness of Bishop Sumner — Resignation of his 
work — Mrs. Sumner resigns the Central Presidentship of 
M.U. — The Bishop's death. 

Chapter VII.— THE GREAT CAUSE (1910—1916) 60-74 

Divorce - t . Commission — Mrs. Sumner's work for the 
Sanctity of Marriage, and for Religious Education — A 
personal reminiscence— The Cathedral Buttresses — A 
Northern Tour — Resignation of Diocesan Presidentship. 



vi CONTENTS 



Chapter VIII.—" THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMKTH " (1917— 

1921) 75-93 

Opening and Dedication of Mary Sumner House — 
Mrs. Wilberforce's narrative — The Ministry of Prayer — 
" Concerning Grandmothers " — Appeal to Young Mothers — 
Mrs. Sumner's 90th Birthday — Mrs. Hubert Barclay's 
reminiscence — Mrs. Sumner's last days — Her death. 

Chapter IX. — AFTER THE HARVEST ... ... ... ... 94-98 

Letters and messages — " After the Harvest." 

Appendix I. — MRS. SUMNER'S FUNERAL 100 

Appendix II. — MRS. SUMNER'S WRITINGS 102 



PART II. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MOTHERS' UNION. 

Page 
Introduction by MRS. WILBERFORCE ... ... ... 104 

Foreword by LADY HORATIA ERSKINE ... ... ... 105 

Chapter I.— 1892— 1910 107-116 

The Mothers' Union first organised in Winchester 
Diocese, 1886 — First Annual Conference, 1892 — Committee 
of Presidents formed, 1893 — Central Council formed, 1896 — 
First Central President and Central Secretary — The 
" Bracket " Clause — Festival of the Mothers' Union — Queen 
Victoria as Patron, 1897 — Magazines started — First Annual 
Service in St. Paul's Cathedral, 1900 — Extension Overseas, 
1902 — The M.U. and Marriage Laws — Finance Committee — 
Work among Nurses, 1906 — Literature Committee, 1906 — 
Deputations to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand 
and to U.S.A. — Change of Central Secretary — First London 
Mass Meeting, 1908 — Resignation of Mrs. Sumner as Central 
President — Death of Bishop Sumner, 1909 — Dowager 
Countess of Chichester elected Central President, 1910. 

Chapter II.— 1910— 1911 117-126 

The new Central President — Letter to the Diocesan 
Presidents — Royal Commission on Divorce — Three M.U. 
witnesses give evidence, June 1910 — Central Offices and 
Staff increased — Revision of M.U. Constitution — Reasons 
for Incorporation, 1910 — M.U. and National Purity — Criminal 
Law Amendment, Mormon Campaign, etc. — Triennial 
Elections, 1911 — Buttress Fund — Welsh Church Disestablish 
ment. 



CONTENTS vii 

Page 
Chapter III.— 1912— 1916 127-186 

Socialist Sunday Schools — Bad Literature — White Slave 
Traffic — Watch Committee formed — Overseas Committee — 
Result of the Royal Commission on Divorce — Incorporation 
of the M.U. — First General Meeting of the " Mothers' Union, 
Incorporated " — " Bracket " Clause rescinded — Scottish 
Mothers' Union — Missionary Workers in India adopted by 
the M.U., 1912— Conference at York— The M.U. and the 
Falling Birth-rate — Letter to Archbishops and Bishops, 1913 — 
Workers' Paper started — Religious Education Scheme and 
Book Supply — Official Handbook prepared — Overseas activi 
ties — Madagascar Banner — The M.U. and War conditions, 
1914 — Speakers' Committee formed — Pilgrimage of Prayer, 
1916 — Resignation of Lady Chichester as Central President, 
1916. 

Chapter IV.— 1916— 1917 137-144 

Mrs. Wilberforce elected as Central President — Message 
to Women of France — The Mary Sumner House Scheme, 
1916 — Postponement of Triennial Elections until conclusion 
of War — The M.U. and War-work — Central Correspondent 
for Temperance Work appointed — Marriage Defence Com 
mittee — Young Wives' Committee — Young Wives' Fellow 
ship — Opening of the temporary " Mary Sumner House," 
8, Dean's Yard, Westminster — Its Chapel Services — 
Australian Magazine started — Gifts from Overseas Members 
for suffering and bereaved mothers in Europe. 

Chapter V.— 1918— 1920 145-152 

A tribute of sympathy — Naval Division of M.U. members 
formed — Organising Workers — A third Missionary Worker 
adopted, 1918 — Lady Jenkyns' retirement as Editor of the 
M.U. Journal — New Editor appointed — Visit of the Queen 
and Princess Mary to the Mary Sumner House — Postponed 
Elections take place — Campaign for Deepening Spiritual Life 
— New Finance Scheme, 1919 — Mrs. Wilberiorce's resigna 
tion as Central President — Her last Council Meeting — 
Mrs. Hubert Barclay elected as Central President — Repre 
sentation Scheme passed — Second London Mass Meeting — 
Conference of Overseas Workers, 1920. 

Chapter VI.— 1920— 1921 153-156 

The new Central President — First Object of the M.U. 
more clearly defined, 1920 — Conference Week at Chester — 
Death of Mrs. Sumner— Third London Mass Meeting— The 
Mothers' Union to-day. 



viii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



MRS. SUMNER Frontispiece 

HOPE END to face page 4 

MARY ELIZABETH HEY WOOD, AGED 19 ... „ „ 10 

THE WINCHESTER HOME „ „ 26 

LADY HORATIA ERSKINE „ „ 106 

THE DOWAGER COUNTESS OF CHICHESTER ... „ „ 117 

MRS. WlLBERFORCE „ „ 137 

MRS. HUBERT BARCLAY ... 158 



FOREWORD ix 

FOREWORD 
BY THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY 



THE Archbishop of Canterbury permits the use, as 
Foreword to Mrs. Sumner's Biography, of the 
following passage from a letter which he wrote 
to Mrs. Gore Browne at the time of her mother's death : — 

" What a wonderful life it has been ! Few of those 
who realise the work of her later years know or remember 
how early she began to have large responsibilities, and a 
central position wherein her charm carried so much before 
it. How gallantly she has borne a yet greater burden 
in the after-years — but with the self-same charm — 
everyone knows. Her praise is deservedly ' in all the 
Churches.' 

Do you remember how Stanley, in describing Moses 
on Pisgah, applies the lines about people seldom seeing 
the fruit of their labours ? 

1 For life did never to one man allow 
Time to discover worlds, and conquer, too.' 

But life has allowed it to one woman ! It is a 
marvellous experience to have first ' discovered ' a new 
way of dealing with home problems, and stirring people 
thereto ; and then to have lived to see it all come true, 
all the world over, under her ripe experience ! " 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO PART I xi 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO PART I 



T CANNOT let this Memoir go out under my name 
without some acknowledgment of the very large 
share in it which is due to my fellow-workers in the 
Mothers' Union. We have all joined together in con 
tributing what each has had to give towards making a 
picture of Mrs. Sumner's life and work that shall be true, 
so far as it goes. That it should be incomplete is, I fear, 
inevitable, especially within the somewhat narrow limits 
of this volume. But it has seemed fitting that our 
memories of one so widely known and loved and honoured 
should be presented in the simplest and least costly form 
we could accomplish. 

Where so many helpers have contributed to the result 
achieved, to give a list of those to whom thanks are due 
would be lengthy, and probably incomplete. I have 
therefore not attempted it, nor have I given, except on a 
few important occasions, the names of the correspondents 
who have kindly furnished the various letters of 
Mrs. Sumner's from which I am able to quote. In some 
cases it was not desired, and, for the most part, it would 
have made an interruption without adding to the signifi 
cance of the passages given. 



xii AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO PART I 

One name, however, must have the recognition due 
to it in at least equal measure with my own, in the author 
ship of this Memoir. It was at the request of Mrs. Gore 
Browne that I undertook the task, and without her 
constant and close co-operation I could not have carried 
it through. That I have done so, even with her help, 
very imperfectly, no one can be more fully aware than 
I am, for the more closely one looks into the depths which 
underlay that life of power and beauty, the clearer grows 
the consciousness of inadequacy in portrayal. But the 
stronger, also, grows one's faith in the power of the 
Holy Spirit to make use, if He will, even of this brief 
record of Mary Sumner's life and work, for the purpose 
of kindling in other hearts fresh confidence in the Lord 
she loved, and a more burning zeal for His service. 

That such may be His gracious work is the prayer 
with which this book goes forth. 



MARY PORTER. 



All Saints' Day, 1921. 



PART I 



MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 



CHAPTER I 



HARVEST 

" In the pleasant orchard closes, 
' God bless all our gains ' say we ; 
But, * May God bless all our losses ' 
Better suits with our degree." 

(" The Lost Bmcer.") 

15th of August, 1921, witnessed a gathering in 
A Winchester Cathedral most truly to be described 
as a Harvest Thanksgiving. The whole of that 
vast church — chancel, nave and aisles — was filled to over 
flowing, chiefly with women, old and young, rich and 
poor, who had come from far and near to thank God for 
the rich harvest of a long life in which the sunshine of 
His love had been allowed to do its fruitful work. 

Thankfulness ; that was the keynote of Mrs. Summer's 
funeral, even in hearts aching with the pain of personal 
loss. Her place was left very empty in the home from 
which her coffin was borne, as the field is empty whence 
the golden corn has all been carried. But the bareness 
of the reaped furrow does not silence the joy of harvest, 
and neither can the desolation of heart and home quench 
the thanksgiving of those who look forward as well as 
back, to the Lord of the Harvest's own in-gathering of 
the ripened sheaves. 

Those sheaves were symbolised at the service in 
Winchester Cathedral on that sunny August afternoon. 
The 4000 and more women assembled there were repre 
sentative of the whole 400,000 members of the Mothers' 
Union in all parts of the world, and as the funeral 
procession passed through their midst, the words that 



2 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

rose to many a mind were : " Behold, I and the children 
whom Thou hast given me." 

It was as the Mother, far more than only as the Founder 
of the Mothers' Union that its members thanked God 
for her life, and for her work, and, above all — as one 
of them wrote — for " that great big mother-heart which 
seemed to enfold us all, and to take to itself all our joys 
and sorrows, as if they were her own." 

It was as a Mother that the members of her world 
wide Union did indeed " rise up and call her blessed " 
on that golden day of harvest; but it was as a leader 
also that she was honoured by the leaders of the Church 
she had served with so full a consecration of her powers. 
The two buttresses of the Cathedral which bear her name 
and her husband's fitly commemorate the support and 
strength given to the life of the Church in the Nation, 
by countless efforts and sacrifices freely given and 
wisely planned through long years of unstinted service 
to God and man. 

If we would enter fully into the joy of harvest, 
we must know something of what has gone before; of 
the sowing as well as the reaping, of the toil and 
patience, and the trustful waiting upon God, which have 
all had their part in preparing for the glory of the gathered 
sheaves. Each different harvest has its own preparation. 
For some the buffeting of storms would seem to be need 
ful, or long watering with bitter tears, whilst others attain 
their full fruition in the peace of glowing sunshine. 

Such was the harvest of Mary Sumner's life. If I 
had to give in a single phrase the secret of its fruitfulness, 
I think I should choose the two words, sunshine and 
service. Her 92 years were exceptionally rich in sunshine, 
and she took it as God's gift, and used it to the full. Or 
rather, I think it would be truer to say that she suffered 



HARVEST 8 

Him to use it, in her and through her, for the fulfilment 
of His will ; not hindering its transforming, ripening work 
by self-cast shadows, nor seeking merely the pleasure 
of basking in its glow. The sorrows which the passing 
of the years must always bring came to her gently, and 
in due course. No anguish of bitter suffering or untimely 
loss darkened the heaven above her, or shook the founda 
tions of her faith. Personal beauty and gifts were hers 
in rich abundance; love, friendship and appreciation 
surrounded her from her first days to her last. God did 
indeed give her " all things richly to enjoy," not for her 
own sake only, but for the work He had prepared for her 
to accomplish in His Name. 

Looking back upon that work, in the golden light of 
harvest, we can see how essential to its fulfilment were the 
confidence and serenity, the tact and courage and all 
the personal charm called forth in such abundant measure 
by the sheltered happiness of her girlhood's days, the 
deeper joys of wedded love and motherhood, the wide 
circle of friends, and all the varied interests and opportuni 
ties that enriched her life. She had only three real 
homes in all its course; Hope End, her childhood's 
paradise of delight and dreams, from which she went 
forth in the summer brightness of her bridal day; the 
Hampshire Rectory where her own children grew up, 
and whence they in their turn passed on to homes of 
their own; and the old house at Winchester, where the 
Mothers' Union — her " youngest child " as her husband 
called it — passed through the first stages of the rapid 
growth which fitted it to go out from the Cathedral Close 
" into all the world." 

With these three homes are linked three distinct 
stages in the development of Mary Sumner's life and work. 



CHAPTER II 



HOPE END 

(1828—1848) 

" Green the land is, where my daily 
Steps in jocund childhood played, 
Dimpled close with hill and valley, 
Dappled very close with shade: 
Summer snow of apple-blossoms running up from glade to glade. 

" Far out, kindled by each other, 
Shining hills on hills arise, 
Close as brother leans to brother 
When they press beneath the eyes 
Of some father praying blessings from the gifts of paradise. 

" While beyond, above them mounted, 
And above their woods also, 
Malvern hills, for mountains counted 
Not unduly, loom a-row — 
Keepers of Piers Plowman's visions through the sunshine and the snow. 



stanzas are from Mrs. Browning's poem, " The 
A Lost Bower," in which she has enshrined the memory 
of that beautiful home which was for her, as 
afterwards for Mrs. Sumner, the paradise of childhood's 
years. Hope End would seem to be one of those places 
which take hold of the hearts of all who live in them; 
the reason, in this case, being the rich variety of its many 
charms. Upland slopes and wooded glades, open park, 
walled gardens, and shady lawns, all were to be found 
at Hope End, with wonderful views here and there, 
where the ground was high, across Herefordshire to the 
far Welsh Hills, in one direction, and, in another, to 
the nearer Malvern range. 

In this home of many beauties Elizabeth Barrett 
spent her girlhood, and wrote her earliest poems, and 




g, 

O 



HOPE END 5 

from it she departed with bitter grief in her 28th year, 
when her father was forced, through loss of fortune, 
to sell the estate. He found a ready purchaser in 
Mr. Hey wood, Mrs. Sumner's father, who had fallen in 
love with the place on a visit paid to it once when he was 
staying at Malvern. 

The move to Hope End was made in 1833 from 
Swinton, near Manchester, where Mr. Hey wood and his 
wife were then living, and where their three children 
had been born. Mary Elizabeth, the youngest of the 
three, was then in her fifth year, and as time went on 
there gradually grew up in her childish mind a strangely 
vivid sense of sympathy with her predecessor in this 
delightful new home, who shared her fondness for it, 
and also one of her own names. The remembrance was 
fresh in her mind sixty years later, when she wrote down 
some memories of her young days, from which I am 
allowed to quote : — 

" I was four years old when we went to Hope End ; 
the baby of the family, and a much-indulged person — 
though I never remember disobeying my parents. Such 
a course seemed to be made impossible by the high 
standard of conduct they always set us, and their example 
of high principle as regards obedience, truth and honour. 

" My first recollection of the new home which became 
so unspeakably dear to us all was the account given by 
some of the old servants, of Elizabeth Barrett's agony 
of grief and her bitter tears, in driving away from Hope 
End. I felt so sorry for her, and I guarded, with a sort 
of loyal sympathy, her favourite flowers in her little 
garden up by the large walled kitchen garden, and thought 
how too happy I was to live in such a lovely home while 
she was pining somewhere far away." 

In this beautiful home Mary Heywood passed a 
girlhood that was not only very happy, but was also 



6 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

characterised by an amount of freedom, and a wealth 
of varied opportunities, which a girl even of the present 
age might well envy her. It is perhap^ rather whole 
some for us, in these days which claim to have left the 
poor old past so far behind, to realise how wide a life 
and training could be opened to a girl, nearly a century 
ago, by parents who spent themselves, as well as their 
means, freely upon their children's upbringing. 

Mr. Heywood was a man of wide culture, a great 
reader and a scholarly writer, and " as children we were 
taught a great deal by him," Mrs. Sumner's notes tell us. 

" . . . . And if we drove or walked with him, he used 
to tell us long historical stories so graphically that I felt 
as if I had assisted personally at the battles of Crecy and 
Agincourt, talked to the Black Prince, and seen the 
Duke of Wellington at Waterloo 

" . . . . My father and mother both took immense 
pains in our education. We had foreign governesses, 
and went abroad constantly, in days when travelling 
could only be accomplished slowly, and with long weary 
days of posting." 

Those lengthy drives Mrs. Sumner owned that she 
found " very dull work," with the " dust, heat, monotony, 
and the perpetual jingling of the horses' bells." 

" Oh, I did feel tired and dreadfully bored ! " she 
frankly admitted; whereat one wonders the less on 
reading that she was only seven years old when the first 
of these journeys abroad took place. And a good deal 
would seem to have been expected of her, too ! 

" My father wished us each to write a journal, and I 
can recall my first journal-book, with the big round-hand 
recording with difficulty and exceeding dulness small 
details of no interest." 

One winter was spent in France, and one in Germany, 
and then tlje education of the two sjsters was carrieo) 



HOPE END 7 

on at home, and the boy went off to school, " much to 
my grief," Mrs. Sumner wrote, " for he and I were such 
devoted friends." 

" We had each of us our ponies at Hope End, and our 
joy was to gallop about the park together, leaping ditches 
and flying over fences, often without saddles. Tom 
taught me to ride, and considered me his pupil. My 
father's hair stood somewhat on end one day at the 
wild career over hedge and ditch which my brother led 
me, ending with the triumphant announcement to my 
father, when we drew rein : ' That is how I teach girls ! ' 

" Tom was a first-rate rider from his boyhood, and 
knew no fear, so I was bound to try and follow suit on 
my pony ' Strawberry.' He and I used also to row about 
together on the lake below the house in a sort of a tub, 
which we called the ' Happy-go-lucky.' " 

The close bond of comradeship with this beloved 
only brother was never loosened. " Tom's " daughter, 
Mrs. Cart wright, cherishes the memory of days long 
after, when brother and sister loved to meet again in 
the old home, and their laughter would ring out as merrily 
as though they were still boy and girl together, as they 
called up the memories of past adventures and exploits. 

All through Mrs. Sumner 's recollections of her childish 
days there runs the golden thread of her mother's 
influence, to which she loved to say that she owed so 
much more than could be told in words. 

" Concerning my dear mother I feel it more difficult 
to write. She was the ' Angel in the house ' to us all .... 
She gave herself up in heart and life to the service of 
Jesus Christ, and her teaching and example made a lasting 
impression upon her husband and children. She lived 
to hear, long years afterwards, the whispered words of 
her husband as he was dying : ' We shall soon meet again ; 



8 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

you brought me to know and love my Saviour. It is 
all your doing that I die in peace.' ' 

A phrase which Mrs. Sumner uses about her mother 
is strikingly appropriate to herself : " There was no 
parenthesis in her religion. It moulded her whole tone of 
thought and manner of life." 

So also are the words that follow: — 

" I do not think there ever was a more entirely lovable 
or fascinating personality. It is certain that she had the 
power of winning people of all sorts and kinds, rich and 
poor, by her tender sympathy, her charm of manner, 
her cleverness and humour, and her quick appreciation 
of all that was good and interesting in those who 
approached her." 

Daily Bible-reading with this beloved mother, in the 
early morning, was one of Mrs. Sumner's earliest and 
most constant recollections, and " what a debt of gratitude 
we owe her for this ! It has helped us through life, 
for what is learnt in childhood is never forgotten." 

The last words strike a familiar echo in the memory 
of every one who has heard the Foundress of the Mothers' 
Union speak of its chief work, the training of children in 
the knowledge and love of God. The paramount import 
ance of early training — above all, of a mother's training — 
was, to the end, the thought of all others which she strove 
to impress upon all who would join with her in the great 
work for which the first foundations were laid in those 
quiet morning half-hours spent with her own mother 
in learning to know and love God. 

So the sunny days of childhood passed by, and the 
dawn of womanhood found Mary Heywood one of the 
brightest, happiest, and — if one may add it — most sought- 
after girls who have ever tasted of life's keenest joys. 
A portrait of her, at about this time, shows something of 



HOPE END 9 

her dark-haired, brilliant beauty, but it can only faintly 
suggest the vitality and the radiant joyousness which those 
who knew her best would always dwell upon as her chief 
characteristics. She is fond of insisting, in her reminis 
cences, upon her sister's superior beauty, but not all her 
depreciation of her own attractions can quite disguise 
the sunshine of love and admiration which then, as in 
later years, followed her wherever she went. The manu 
script stops short very soon after her 18th birthday, giving 
just one glimpse of her " coming-out " winter in Rome, 
where she went to her first ball on New Year's Day, 1847. 

" It was then that my future husband first saw me 
(Mr. George Sumner), but we were not introduced to one 
another. A few days later we met at the house of his 
cousin, Mrs. Wilson, the daughter of Archbishop Sumner. 
She told him he would meet the two Miss Hey woods, but 
that he must not fall in love with either, because one was 
engaged to her cousin, Percival Heywood, and the second 
was too young to think of being married — in fact, that 
her parents would not hear of such a thing. This caution 
was singularly disregarded as time went on." 

Full of enjoyment are the memories of that winter, 
which was " delightfully spent in lionising Rome, in 
having Italian and singing lessons, and seeing a great 
deal of society." Only Sundays were " always quiet 
days, and we went to Church regularly twice in the day, 
at the English Church." 

" We had only been a short time in Rome when 
Percival Heywood arrived to claim his beautiful fiancee — 
our Maggie— and he spent the rest of the winter with us. 
She was immensely admired, and was considered the 
belle of Rome that winter, but her heart and time were 
given to Percival, and no one else was allowed to approach 
her. I suppose it was different with her less beautiful 
sister, and I had a variety of kind friends who made a 



10 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

good deal of me, so that I ran the risk of being utterly 
spoilt." 

" But the favoured one " — the recollections of those 
gay days end demurely — " was Mr. Sumner." 

George Sumner was 22 at that time, enjoying a winter 
of foreign travel between the close of his University 
career and the beginning of his ministry. The portraits 
of him in those youthful days are made very attractive 
by his good looks, and also by a certain candid sweetness 
of expression characteristic of him all his life. It is not 
hard to fancy the joyous picture of youth and beauty and 
brilliant promise which he and the eighteen-year-old 
Mary Heywood must have made together in the happy 
holiday time in Rome, when both stood on the threshold 
of life's deepest meaning. 

He was the youngest son of Bishop Charles Sumner, 
at that time Bishop of Winchester, and was ordained 
deacon in 1847, and priest in the following year. A few 
months later he married Mary Elizabeth Heywood, on 
the 26th of July, 1848. 

It was a wedding as ideal as were the 61 years of 
married life that followed it. The summer sun shed its 
radiance upon the happy young bride and bridegroom, 
and the love of God hallowed their hearts and lives and 
glori fied their love. No thought of the great work awaiting 
her was in Mary Sumner 's mind as she left her childhood's 
home with the husband of her choice; yet one stage in 
her preparation for it had been accomplished during 
those early years which closed with the dawn of her 
wedding day f 











Mary Elizabeth Heywood, aged 19 



CHAPTER III 

OLD ALRESFORD 

(1848—1885) 

" To all who live with us beneath our roof 
Grant richest blessing and a constant proof 
That Thou art with us, as we dwell in love, 
A faint reflection of the Home above." 

(M. E. Sumner.) 

AT the time of his marriage, George Sumner was a 
curate (under Archdeacon Jacob) in the diocese of his 
father, the Bishop of Winchester, and in the same 
year he was appointed chaplain to his uncle, Archbishop 
Sumner (translated from Chester to Canterbury in 1848). 
The Sumner family had for several generations rendered 
distinguished service to the Church, and was linked by 
marriage with the Wilberforces ; so that the young curate 
started with high traditions, as well as with the earnest 
purpose of living up to them. 

In this he had, from the first, his young wife's full 
support. The same joyous zest that she had shown over 
her childish sports, and later in her girlhood's pleasures, 
now found its outlet in the work and life which she shared 
with her husband to the utmost of her power. At the 
end of their first year of married life Mr. Sumner's mother 
died, and he gave up his curacy in order to go to his 
father as chaplain, and cheer his loneliness. The young 
couple took up their abode at Farnham Castle when 
their first baby was only a few weeks old, and lived there 
for two years. So that it was not until three years after 
their marriage that they made the first of their two real 
homes together, in the Hampshire village of Old 



12 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

to which parish the Bishop appointed his son as rector 
in 1851. Here their youngest child was born, and all 
their three children grew up from babyhood, and here 
Mrs. Sumner's own beloved mother came to live, after the 
death of her husband in 1866, and died after four peaceful 
years made happy by the love of her children and grand 
children. 

MOTHERHOOD. 

It is interesting to learn from Mrs. Sumner herself 
how the foundations of the future Mothers' Union were 
being gradually developed through each successive stage 
in her own experience of motherhood. She makes this 
clear in some further fragmentary reminiscences. 

" It has always seemed to me that the first thought 
about the Mothers' Union dawned upon me in the early 
years of my happy married life, when our eldest child 
was born. I shall never forget the awful sense of res 
ponsibility which seemed to overwhelm me as I took 
her in my arms, and realised that God had given an 
immortal soul into our keeping. 

"As I gazed with rapture at my little baby, it struck 
me how much I needed special teaching for so great a 
work as the character-training of a child, and how little 
I knew about it. I felt that mothers had one of the 
greatest and most important professions in the world, 
and yet there was no profession which had so poor a 
training for its supreme duties. . . . 

" The importance of a national effort to awaken the 
conscience of mothers to their responsibility and power, 
as character trainers t forced itself upon me more and 
more as time went on, and two more children were added 
to our home-circle, and my thoughts on the responsi 
bility of motherhood grew and deepened. The years 
between 1849 and 1870 were spent in the practical training 



OLD ALRESFORD 13 

of our children, during which time I had no leisure for 
work outside our home and parish. 

" My own happy married life led me to realise that 
the foundation of a home is c Holy Marriage,' in which 
husband and wife are one in mutual love and faith in 
God, in agreement as to Home Rule, and in the training 
of children. It led to the 4 First Object ' of the Mothers' 
Union. 

" I could not help observing the influence exercised 
in our home, and over our children, by my husband's 
consistent high standard as regards religion. His character 
of peace and love was a constant support and help to me, 
and our mutual love, crowned with the love of God, 
created an atmosphere of mental sunshine in daily life." 

That atmosphere of sunshine seems to have been the 
feature which struck every one who know Old Alresford 
Rectory in those days. Mrs. Gore-Browne* writes of it : — 

" Old Alresford Rectory was certainly a very cheery 
place, for no grumbling was ever allowed. My mother 
would not permit it. She said it was like the east wind 
in a house. I never remember hearing her grumble about 
anything, in the whole course of my life. Even in all 
the weakness and limitations of her old age, she never 
complained, but always said God allowed them for her 
4 training.' ' 

In one of the addresses she gave in later years, Mrs. 
Sumner told how she used to keep herself reminded, 
when she was a young mother, of the motto she was 
fond of urging all mothers to adopt : " Be yourself what 
you would have your child to be." 

" I wrote it on a card, and hung it up beside my 
toilet table, so that I might be continually reminded of 

* Second daughter of Bishop and Mrs. Sumner; married, in 
1882, to the Rev. (afterwards Canon) Harrington Gore-Browne, 
second son of Bishop and Mrs. Harold Browne, who died in 1914. 



14 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

its importance. I realised that a mother must be always 
training herself, if she would train her children." 

So many of the thoughts which Mrs. Sumner embodied 
in her later writings and addresses had their origin in 
her own early experience, that a few of them may be 
fitly given here, to express the spirit in which she herself 
sought to meet the problems and responsibilities of 
motherhood. At the heart of it all lay a deep sense 
of reverence for God's part in the children whom He 
had given, and this she longed to share with every 
mother. 

" I would urge every young mother to reverence her 
child," she wrote; and she was continually emphasizing 
the danger of " despising " one of Christ's little ones, 
and the harm so lightly wrought thereby, by careless 
kindness as well as by neglect. One of the most 
characteristic features in her teaching about motherhood 
— and by no means the least important — was her insistence 
upon the fact that to treat a baby merely as a pet or 
plaything, is, in effect, to " despise," by ignoring, that 
which is divine in it. 

" I wish to awaken the attention of mothers to the fact 
that even although infants may be much valued, devotedly 
loved and cared for, and tenderly nursed, they are, in truth, 
being more or less despised when they excite no feelings of 
reverence, no respect .... 

" .... A little imant comes bright from God's presence, 
radiant with the light of heaven, His latest revelation of Himself 
to our care-hardened lives. Do we seek to retain the glory 
and beauty which a child reveals ? Are we nursing the divine 
germ for fuller development, and taking heed lest in word or 
deed we offend one of these little ones ? . . . . 

" . . . . We must train our children in the dawn of life ; 
these first years are so unspeakably precious, and the father 
and mother form the atmosphere of the home; they make 
or mar the character of their children. Every life, you may 



OLD ALRESFORD 15 

say, in the land is more or less formed inside a home, either 
for blessing or the contrary. 

" . . . . The gradual unfolding of a child's mind is pro 
foundly interesting; you have to secure his heart and his 
imagination. It has been said that ' to fill the mind with 
beautiful images is the best thing that can be done to educate 
little children,' and what in the world is so beautiful to a child 
as the Personality of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His infinite 
love for children ? They are placed in His arms in Baptism, 
and He marks them as His own. They are made ' members 
of Christ . . . .' Body and soul they are consecrated to Him, 
to be His faithful soldiers and servants to their lives' end. 

" Little children are born with a religious instinct ; they 
value sympathy, and the tender love and protecting care of 
the Lord Jesus brings joy into their lives, and allays sorrow 
and fear. A boy of four years old told me that when he was 
frightened in the dark, he asked our Lord to come close to 
him, and take care of him, ' and then,' said he, ' I wasn't 
afraid any more.' " 

These were no purely imaginary counsels, but the 
simple gathering up of Mrs. Sumner's own experience. 
Her own children carried into later life the strong im 
pression left on their minds by their mother's earliest 
teaching to them about their Baptism, and all that it 
meant to them, however young and helpless they might 
be. She made them realise that they were indeed little 
soldiers and servants of the unseen Lord Whom they 
knew to be so living and so dear to her. That knowledge 
was what brought it home to them, writes a niece who 
used to stay at the Rectory when she was a little child : — 

" I think even then I realised how real was her religious 
belief, and how near she lived to the Lord she loved. She 
knew just how to speak to a child, as well to a grown person, 
with all her heart and interest going out to each one. She 
won the confidence of us all, and we all loved her. 

" She was so beautiful, too ; so full of gentle dignity, and 
of joyousness as well. She always seemed to me a fairy aunt. 



16 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

with her quick movements, and her infectious, ringing laughter, 
and her wonderful tenderness to a child .... 

" . . . . Looking back across the years, I think one of the 
things that has always struck me most about Aunt Mary 
was her rich youthfulncss of outlook. It seemed to express 
what so many religious people lack — the joyousness of being 
a follower of Christ." 

THE WIDENING CIRCLE. 

It is striking to find how this note of joyousness 
characterises the recollections of all who knew the home 
life at Old Alresford Rectory during all those thirty-four 
years. As the children grew up, the circle of interest and 
work and social life widened ; the Rector was called upon 
increasingly for Diocesan work, and his wife was able to 
give more and more valuable help in the care of the 
parish, aided by her daughters as the years went on. 

The Rectory was a large Georgian house, with the 
dignified, ample rooms of its period, and hospitable doors 
which seemed to stand always open. Young and old, 
rich and poor, parishioners, neighbours, friends from 
further afield, gathered there with happy confidence in 
a welcome that never failed. Classes, meetings, practices 
for the Church choir and for a Choral Society, charades 
and social entertainments of many kinds, all found place 
in the Rectory life, and the personality of its mistress 
was a foremost factor of success in each. 

So also were her musical gifts and her voice, a high 
soprano of unusual quality, powerful, flexible and very 
sweet. It was beautifully trained, too, by a famous 
master whose method Mrs. Sumner used successfully in 
teaching her own daughters. She trained the Church choir 
also, and acted as organist, which she enjoyed, for she 
was a musician through and through. That was what 
gave her singing one of its greatest charms; it was so 



OLD ALRESFORD 17 

entirely a matter of delight and not of effort to her. She 
sang as a bird sings, her hearers used to say, for the sheer 
joy of it. It was a great gift, this that God had given 
her, and she used it greatly in His service ; in later days 
by speaking, as in those earlier years by song. 

When one tries to reckon up all the activities that 
filled her days, it is easy to assume that Mrs. Sumner 
rejoiced in unbroken health and strength, yet as a matter 
of fact she had her share of illnesses. Possibly the small 
place which they seem to have occupied in her life is due 
to the fact that she took them as simply as she took her 
joys, without ever adding the burden of self-pity to the 
ills she had to bear. Neither did she inflict upon herself 
or others the poisonous misery of unkind thoughts ; and 
we are learning more and more to realise how much this 
means in health of mind and body. 

"Dulness and gloom could not live near her," as 
Mrs. Wilberforce wrote, "and because she drew her 
inspiration from so deep a well, her joie de vivre never 
left her . . . Few who met her could ever forget the 
flash of her eyes, or the ring of her merry laugh." 

I think it was a daughter of Archbishop Trench (one 
of the Sumners' oldest and closest friends at Old Alresford) 
who remarked on the fact tliat during the course of quite 
a long visit at the Rectory she had heard not a single 
unkind word said of any person ; and this sunny atmos 
phere of peace and goodwill seemed to follow Mr. and 
Mrs. Sumner wherever they went. At every house in 
the neighbourhood they were among the most welcome 
guests, and thoroughly did they enjoy the society of their 
friends. 

That power of enjoyment was a gift which Mrs. Sumner 
never lost. She entered to the fullest extent into the 
delights of all their holidays, and most of all into those 
which had any spice of adventure in them. The self-same 



18 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

spirit that had sent her galloping after her brother over 
hedges and ditches at Hope End enabled her to enter, 
with all the zest of those childish days, into the joys of 
travelling, without regard for its inconveniences. This 
was especially remarked by her fellow-travellers on a 
memorable holiday in the Holy Land.* No one was 
more deeply impressed than Mr-. Sumner by the wonderful 
places they visited, nor did anybody find such keen 
delight as she did in the long days of travelling on horse 
back, and the nights they passed in tents. No petty 
discomforts or contretemps could spoil her pleasure, and 
she owned to finding it quite an effort to return to the 
humdrum routine of ordinary life again. 

MEETINGS. 

In Mrs. Sumner 's later years, when she was the leading 
speaker for the Mothers' Union, she would often seek to 
encourage beginners by recalling her own experience of 
the first meeting of women she undertook to address. It 
was at the Rectory, and the women invited were only 
some thirty or forty in number, and all well known to 
her. But when word was brought to her that they were 
assembled, her nerve failed her and she broke down so 
completely that she had to beg her husband to go in her 
stead to speak to them, and to send them away. But 
she resolved that it should never happen again, and she 
asked them to come again the following week, and forced 
herself to face the dreaded ordeal in reliance upon the 
Holy Spirit's power. After that, she used to say, although 
she had frequently to fight against nervousness, it never 
overcame her. 

Her meetings for women became a weekly event, so 
much enjoyed by all concerned that a request was presently 

* Described in Mrs. Sumner's book, Our Holiday in the East. 



OLD ALRESFORD 19 

put forward that she should hold a meeting for men also, 
about which her notes tell us:- 

" My husband cordially approved of the idea, and 
was delighted to arrange one for me every Sunday evening 
at 7 o'clock, while he took the Service at Arms worth, a 
district in a distant part of the parish. The men's meeting 
was a most delightful gathering of about thirty-five, who 
came regularly up to the Rectory every Sunday evening, 
and entered heartily into the Bible reading, and the 
suggested religious and home duties which I especially 
brought before them." 

There is something characteristic in the courage with 
which Mrs. Sumner pushed her suggestions right home 
to the practical details that mean so much, and are so 
often overlooked. 

" I ventured on one occasion to speak to the men 
about their married lives, and I told them, with a smile, 
that they doubtless said many pretty things to their wives 
before they were married, and they ought to show love 
and courtesy to them afterwards. 

" I urged each of them to give a little present to his 
wife on her birthday. The hint was taken, and the wife 
of one of them, when next I called on her, told me that 
her husband had bought her a lovely shawl, and on her 
birthday he put it round her shoulders and gave her his 
good wishes with a kiss. She said, ' I couldn't help 
crying for joy, because he had never done such a thing or 
spoken so lovingly to me since we were married.' ' 

The sentence with which Mrs. Sumner concludes her 
memories of this men's meeting is characteristic of her 
attitude towards all her enterprises, great or small: — 

" Although at first I was intensely alarmed at taking 
such a meeting of men, I soon found it a real pleasure. 
They were so kind, grateful, and responsive." 



20 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

It was in 1876 that Mrs. Sumner first gave practical 
effect to her long-cherished idea of a Union of Mothers 
in prayer for their homes. She worked out a very simple 
card of practical suggestions, headed with the reminder 
which she had been wont to impress upon herself from 
her earliest days of motherhood : 

" Remember that your children are given up, body and 
soul, to Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism, and that your duty 
is to train them for His service." 

A few simple counsels to mothers followed, and then 
an appeal to seek in the Holy Communion the strength 
needful for putting them into practice, and after this 
the prayer now known to members of the Mothers' Union 
throughout the world. The card was used by some of 
Mrs. Sumner 's own friends, as well as by the members 
of her women's meeting, but " I had no idea," she wrote 
*' how I could make it more widely known, unless some 
good opportunity was vouchsafed to me." 

The opportunity did not come for nine years, during 
which the time at Old Alresford was drawing to its close. 
Those years saw the departure from the Rectory of the 
son and two daughters, one after another, to their own 
married homes,* and together with this narrowing of the 
home-circle a continued increase of Diocesan work and 
duties came to Canon Sumner. He had been made 
Honorary Canon of Winchester in 1873, and in 1885 he 
became Archdeacon. Soon after his appointment to 
this Office a residentiary Canonry fell vacant, and was 
conferred upon him, together with a house in the Cathedral 
Close, and the thirty-two years of life and work at Old 
Alresford came to an end. 

* The elder daughter was married, in 1871, to Mr. A. P. Heywopd, 
eldest son of Sir Percival Hey wood, Bart., of Dove Leys, Staffordshire. 
The second daughter married in 1882 (see p. 13), and in 1888 Mr. 
Heywood Sumner, the only son, married Miss Agnes Benson, younger 
daughter of Mr. Wm. Benson, of Langtons, Alresford. 



OLD ALRESFORD 21 

So also did Mrs. Sumner's many years of prayer and 
waiting to see what future God had in store for the Mothers' 
Union of her dreams. There is a striking significance in 
the fact that the opportunity of launching it, which had 
been so long in coming, should present itself just at the 
time when the old home was being given up, and the 
special work and duties belonging to it were at an end. 

It was during the autumn of that year, in the midst 
of the preparations for their move, that Archdeacon and 
Mrs. Sumner went together to the Portsmouth Church 
Congress, which was to be the means of bringing the 
Mothers' Union into existence. Of so memorable an 
occasion one seeks a personal account, and we owe the 
following reminiscence to Mrs. Wilberforce,* who can 
write of it better than anybody else. Not only was 
she present at the time, and closely concerned in the 
incident from which so much followed, but she also knew 
Mrs. Sumner, on terms of closest friendship, from earlier 
days right on to the end. 

I count it, therefore, a very great gain to have 
Mrs. Wilberforce as narrator both for the first and for 
the last of the many public occasions belonging to Mrs. 
Sumner's work as Foundress of the Mothers' Union. 



THE PORTSMOUTH CHURCH CONGRESS. 

Mrs. Wilberlorce's Narrative. 

'Although the scene remains vividly before my eyes, 
it is difficult, after the lapse of so many years, to describe 
in words the details of the historic occasion when the 
Mothers' Union was called into being by the words of 
its beloved Foundress. 

* Mrs. Wilberforce is known to all members of the Mothers' 
Union, by name if not in person. She was Diocesan President for 
London, 1908—1915, and Central President 1915—1920. 



22 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

* In 1885 the Church Congress was held at Portsmouth, 
under the presidency of Bishop Harold Browne (of 
Winchester), and one of the items in the week's programme 
was a Mass Meeting for Women, to be held in the largest 
hall that existed in the great, densely-populated seaport 
town. 

'My husband (then Bishop of Newcastle) had been 
asked to preside at this particular meeting, and as we 
came into the Hall, which was packed to overflowing, the 
sight which met us moved him profoundly. On all 
sides there were rows upon rows of women, many of 
them with sad, anxious faces, or bearing some unmistak 
able sign of poverty's cold grip, and he felt that a woman 
could probably speak to them with a greater power of 
sympathetic understanding than even the best of the 
appointed speakers, who were all men. 

'That seemed the natural arrangement for such an 
occasion forty years ago. Women had not yet taken 
up the work of public speaking, and it was a sudden and 
quite unusual resolve that the Bishop took — in the truest 
sense, as I believe, an " inspiration of the moment " — 
when he went straight to Mrs. Sumner, our friend of 
many years' standing, and asked her to speak. She held 
up her hands in horror at the idea of such a thing, and 
her refusal was prompt and emphatic. 

' Nothing daunted, he still pleadingly insisted, and 
upon her protesting that her husband would particularly 
dislike her speaking in public, the Bishop undertook to 
make it all right with him. 

* Finally, placing his hands on Mrs. Sumner's shoulders, 
my husband gave her his blessing, and said that for that 
occasion he was her Bishop, and therefore able to lay 
his commands upon her. Her hesitation was all put behind 
her then, and she set herself to obey the call quite simply, 



OLD ALRESFORD 28 

although " with a trembling heart," as she herself wrote 
afterwards. 

' After this touching little incident we proceeded to the 
platform, Mrs. Sumner sitting behind the Chairman, who 
called upon her before the meeting closed. He told the 
audience that a woman who cared for them, and wanted 
to help them in the trials and difficulties of daily life, 
would now speak to them. She came forward, and spoke 
for a few minutes with all the charm and earnestness that 
thereafter characterised all her utterances, while we who 
listened to her felt that the Holy Spirit was manifestly 
guiding and strengthening her, in an undertaking which 
at that time called for no little courage. 

' The following fragmentary notes of her address, which 
have survived, may serve, imperfect as they are, to give 
an idea of at any rate a part of the message that she gave 
upon this great occasion : — 

" My friends, as wives and mothers we have a great work 
to do for our husbands, our children, our homes and our country, 
and I am convinced that it would greatly help us if we could 
start a Mothers' Union, wherein all classes could unite in faith 
and prayer, to try to do this work for God. 

" With His help and inspiration we can conquer all 
difficulties, and raise the Home-life of our Nation. Union is 
strength. United prayer gives miraculous strength, and mothers 
can be made powerful and successful in their sacred duties 
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

" Let us help one another to come to Him ; to lay all our 
cares before Him, and to look up into His loving Face. He 
will not send us empty away ; He will most surely strengthen, 
help and comfort us in our Home-life here, and fit us to meet 
together, when our work is done, in His own Presence, before 
the Throne of God." 

' That same evening, at a social gathering, when thanking 
my husband for making her speak, Mrs. Sumner spoke 



24 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

to us very earnestly of her great wish to band mothers 
together into a true Union of prayer and Christian fellow 
ship, and I remember her using the expression, " L'union 
fait la force." Next day a few of us met together, Mrs. 
Harold Browne (wife of the Bishop of Winchester) being 
present, and then and there, with the cordial approval 
of the Bishop of Winchester, the Mothers' Union was 
called into existence as a Diocesan organisation. 

"The joy to me is great and abiding that my dear 
husband was privileged to play, under God, so important 
a part in leading our beloved Foundress to take the first 
step of all the very many which have made our Mothers' 
Union the mighty organisation it now is for the conquest, 
in God's Name, of the nation's homes.' 

E. W. 



CHAPTER IV 

WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 
(1885—1896) 

" A true home should be a light-house, shedding its quiet beams 
far and wide." — Ruskin. 

ON the South side of Winchester Cathedral, near to the 
East end, stands an old-fashioned house with square 
front, and many-paned windows in tall white 
frames, and red brick walls that glow with a mellow 
warmth against their background of grey stone traceries 
and buttresses and soaring pinnacles. Nestling there in 
its walled garden, on the sunny side of the Cathedral, it 
seems the very type and picture of a true home, sheltered 
and guarded by the Church — a summary, in its own 
aspect, of the thirty-six years' tenancy which began at 
the close of 1885. 

All through those years — through dark days as through 
bright — the old red house has been a centre of love, and 
light, and warmth of inspiration to an ever-widening 
circle beyond its welcoming doors. To make it a true 
home was the aim with which Archdeacon Sumner and 
his wife entered it that Christmas-tide; to share its 
happiness with others, and to use its opportunities, 
thankfully and unstintingly, in the service of the Lord 
from Whose Hand they took them, day by day. How 
abundantly the aim has been fulfilled might be told by 
thousands who have found a welcome there, and by 
hundreds of thousands into whose hearts the light of that 
sunny " home of peace and love " has flashed like a 
beacon across miles of land and sea. 



26 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

It is a house with many windows, ample and wide; 
a house, essentially, to look out from ; characteristic of that 
later stage in their wedded life which began for husband 
and wife when they took up their abode in Winchester 
Close alone together. It was a home-centre, rather than 
a home-circle, that they had to make now for the three 
families that had taken the places of the three children 
of former days. Only for that " youngest child," the 
Mothers' Union, was the sheltered house in the Close to 
be the nursery from which it should go forth into the 
world. 

Every one who knew Mrs. Sumner will recall her 
insistence upon the " first ten years " as the especial 
portion of a mother in her child's life, the period in which 
she can exercise her great prerogative of moulding its 
character into a form that shall survive through all 
succeeding influences. So that there seems to be a special 
appropriateness in the fulfilment of this dictum in the 
development of the Mothers' Union. She was, most 
emphatically, the " Mother " upon whom its existence 
depended in those early days, and to whom all its members 
looked for help and guidance in dealing with each new 
problem as it arose, and she used her opportunity to the 
full in her untiring efforts to drive deep into the very 
heart of the Union the ideals for which she had called 
it into being. 

It is not always easy to bear in mind the fact that 
Mrs. Sumner had reached the age of 57 when she set to 
work in earnest upon the vast enterprise of forming a 
Mothers' Union throughout the world. It is an age 
usually more or less suggestive of the shelf, even in the 
present restless times, but there is not much hint of any 
such leisured vantage-ground discernible among the 
records of those early days in the Winchester home. 



WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 27 

The work of planning and organising began without 
delay, helped constantly by the Archdeacon's counsel 
and experience, as his wife loved to acknowledge. She 
had also the hearty and loyal co-operation of the fellow- 
workers whom she speedily gathered round her, and the 
assistance, from the first, of able secretaries, but it was 
necessarily upon her own shoulders that the chief burden 
of responsibility, and of effort as well, rested during the 
initial stages of the work. 

The amount of writing that Mrs. Sumner got through 
in those days is a matter of awed conjecture ! Leaflets, 
rules, explanatory papers, outlines of addresses, etc., were 
produced with amazing rapidity, in addition to the 
immense correspondence upon which she embarked. She 
wrote personally to most of the Diocesan Bishops, ex 
plaining the aims of the new venture, and asking for their 
approval and support, besides seizing every opportunity 
that offered itself of seeking to interest personal friends, 
far and near. Nor was she less ready to follow up each 
opening afforded by the letters of enquiry from strangers, 
which soon began to reach her. Many a mother, attracted 
by the thought of the Union, and with no Branch at hand 
that she could join, would write direct to the Foundress, 
and receive not only a prompt response, but a personal 
welcome also into the fellowship of Christian motherhood. 
In her busiest days Mrs. Sumner could always make 
time to write the few words of loving sympathy which 
have served in so many cases to turn the enquirer into 
a staunch fellow- worker. 

It used to be said of her in those days that she was 
never without a pen in her hand, and it might be added 
with equal truth that she was never without a journey 
in prospect, or just completed, upon the business of the 
Mothers' Union. She threw herself with characteristic 
vigour into the work of starting new Branches, wherein 



28 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER 

her husband's help was again of the greatest value. His 
position as Archdeacon brought him necessarily into 
touch with a large number of clergy in the diocese, and 
on his visits to different parishes Mrs. Sumner would 
often accompany him, and take such occasion as might 
offer of spreading the knowledge of the Mothers' Union. 
She no longer shrank from addressing a meeting, when 
one could be arranged. It seemed as though the last 
battle with nervousness had been fought when she obeyed 
the call to speak at Portsmouth, and though she herself 
owned that she still often dreaded the ordeal, she never 
shirked it again, and she never broke down. Her training 
as a singer helped her here, and her utter lack of self- 
consciousness. The portrait of her at the beginning of 
this book — taken at about this time — gives one some idea 
of the erect, simple pose which was characteristic of her 
when she stood to address an audience, great or small, 
and she did not mind which it was. To gain a single new 
worker for the Mothers' Union was as worthy an under 
taking, in the mind of its Foundress, as to sway a mass 
meeting in the Albert Hall, and that musical voice of 
hers stood her in good stead on all occasions. While, as 
to her powers of persuasion, I wonder how many hundreds 
of workers, and thousands of ordinary members have, 
in their turn, been drawn to a meeting somewhat 
half-heartedly, and with the firm resolve not to commit 
themselves, and have come away captured by Mrs. 
Sumner's confident claim upon their fellowship in the 
glorious task of winning the nation's homes for Christ ! 
That, and nothing lower, was always the ground of her 
appeal, and " oh ! what a mighty call it is ! " she said 
in one of her addresses: 

" Rich homes and poor homes — all alike — must be won 
for our God ! It is a call to every one of us to live in prayer, 
that His help, His blessing and His inspiration may rest upon 
our earnest efforts." 



WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 29 

And again: 

" Let us settle it in our hearts that the greatest work we 
can do for the nation is to strive to bring the Church into 
the Home; which means Christ Himself into hearts and 

homes Christ must be in every home, if it is to be in 

any way a home of peace and love .... 

" . . . . God's plans are better than our own, and He 
has ordained that the training-place for His human creatures 
should be the home: the training-place for parents as well 
as children .... 

" . . . . Our task is to restore true family life — for it is 
God's own institution, and therefore a divine thing — and 
to convince all our members that there are these two Divine 
Institutions in the world — the Church and the Home. The 
Home is God's institution as truly as is the Church: let that 
be the truth that we proclaim ! " 

It was a heavy task that Mrs. Sumner had set herself, 
in the launching of the Mothers' Union, and she owned, 
once or twice, that the strain of those first years was 
sometimes not far from breaking her down. It would 
probably have done so altogether, but that she never 
increased it by thinking how great it was, or how much 
she was doing, or had still to do. It was, emphatically, 
Mrs. Sumner 's way to 

"... make each new action sound and true, 
Then leave it in its place unscanned." 

It was her way, also, constantly to relieve the strain 
of her own efforts by the worship of God's glory. I some 
times wonder how much of that element of greatness 
which characterised her public work — her fearlessness, 
her certainty, and her breadth of vision— might be 
traced to the Cathedral Services which she attended so 
faithfully, and loved so well. In the heaviest press of 
claims and duties she never allowed herself to be too busy 
to seek in the united offering of praise and prayer a clearer 
vision of the glory of the Lord she served. She told a 



SO MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

friend that she always tried to leave self outside the 
Cathedral door, so that her whole being might be filled 
with the thought of God in His glorious temple. Perhaps 
we have here the secret of the confidence — so simple and 
so serene — with which she would go out into the world 
again, in the spirit of Bishop Lightfoot's ideal Christian 
worker who has laid down, " at the footstool of God, 
all his hopes and all his fears, all his success and all his 
failure, all that he is and all that he might be, content 
to take up thence just that which God shall give him." 

THE FIRST CONFERENCE. 

The first Diocesan Conference of the Mothers' Union 
was held in Winchester in November, 1887. About 
eighty friends and fellow-workers were present, to whom 
Mrs. Sumner was able to report a beginning full of promise, 
as the result of those two years of hard work. The 
Mothers' Union was by that time firmly established as 
a Diocesan Society, with the approval and hearty support 
of the Bishop of Winchester (then Dr. Harold Browne), 
and numbered fifty-seven Branches actually in existence, 
with eleven more about to be started. It had been 
taken up also in seventeen other Dioceses, and fresh 
enquiries were daily reaching its Foundress from far 
and near. The time, therefore, seemed ripe for a forward 
movement, involving a more extensive organisation, 
and a full and definite statement of its fundamental 
principles. 

This statement, as accepted at the Conference, is 
interesting to quote in full: — 

" It must be clearly understood, in joining the Mothers' 
Union, that there is no interference. Each member is asked 
to carry out the principles of the Society in her own home, 
in the best way she can, and it is well to depend as much upon 
individual work as upon meetings. 



WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 31 

" Those who join are asked to try and interest others in 
the Union, and persuade them to become members. 

" The Principles upon which we would build our work 
are these: — 

" That the prosperity of a nation springs from the family 
life of the homes. 

" That family life is the greatest institution in the world 
for the formation of the character of children. 

44 That the tone of family life depends in great measure 
upon the married life of the parents — their mutual love, 
loyalty and faithfulness the one to the other. 

" That religion is the indispensable foundation of family 
life, and that the truths of the Christian faith should be taught 
definitely at home as well as at school. 

" That parents are themselves responsible for the religious 
teaching of their children. 

" That character is formed during the first ten years of 
life by the example and habits of Home. 

" That example is stronger than precept, and parents there 
fore must be themselves what they wish their children to be. 

" That the history of the world proves the divine power 
given by God to parents, and to Mothers especially, because 
children are placed in their arms from infancy, in a more 
intimate and closer relationship with the Mother than with 
the Father, and this moreover, during the time when character 
is formed. 

" That the training of children is a profession. 

" That it needs faith, love, patience, method, self-control, 
and some knowledge of the principles of character-training. 

" That it is the duty of every Mother with her own lips 
to teach her child that he is God's child, consecrated body 
and soul in Holy Baptism to be our Lord Jesus Christ's soldier 
and servant unto his life's end. 

" That every baptised child should be taught the Creed, 
the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments .... and all 
other things which a Christian ought to know and believe 
to his soul's health." 



32 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

Detailed rules and provisions for working the Society 
were also drawn up, and a card of membership was 
adopted, similar, in all respects, to the one Mrs. Sumner 
had drawn up for her own band of mothers at Old 
Alresford, more than ten years before. Its great feature 
was that, as Mrs. Sumner always was careful to point 
out, it presented no " tests " of membership, but set 
forth the two Sacraments ordained of Christ Himself 
" as the pillars of our work, because they centre in Him." 

" On every card we place the two Sacraments, not 
as part of the rules (there is no sacramental test) but as 
the pillars of our work, and we have found them to be so. 
They are the standing orders of our Master, Jesus Christ, 
and we nail them to our mast." 

The card of membership was always a matter of 
importance in Mrs. Sumner's eyes, as a reminder of those 
obligations of Christian motherhood which members of 
the Union pledged themselves to strive, with God's help, 
to fulfil. She used constantly to urge that the card should 
not be put away in some place where it would be forgotten, 
but kept where it would be seen frequently enough to serve 
its purpose. Another of her suggestions was that 
members should try to make a practice of reading the 
card through on Sundays, " remembering that they 
have promised to try and keep these rules, and that each 
one means a great deal in character training." 

The mention of the card brings to mind what was 
probably one of the hardest efforts and greatest achieve 
ments in all Mrs. Sumner 's long work for the Mothers' 
Union. I refer to the time, some twenty-five years later, 
when the Central Council of the Society resolved that 
some changes in the form of the Members' Card had become 
desirable. That card was so near to Mrs. Sumner's heart, 
that the proposal could not come otherwise than as a pang 
to her, breaking, as it inevitably must, the cherished 



WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 33 

associations of so many years; but when she found 
herself in the minority, she accepted the decision of her 
fellow-members of Council with a ready gentleness which 
impressed more than one among them as a greater triumph 
than even the most brilliant of her successes. 

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT. 

"From this meeting held in Winchester in 1887," 
Mrs. Sumner herself wrote, " dated the rapid progress of 
the Mothers' Union. It seemed to fill a recognised want, 
and from one diocese after another came the reports 
of fresh Branches started under episcopal sanction, and 
with the help and support of the parochial clergy." 

The following year saw the extension of the work 
among young mothers of means and leisure, with the 
help of the Dowager Marchioness of Hertford, who soon 
became one of the most valued leaders of the Mothers' 
Union. She was immensely interested in it from the 
first, and spared no pains to gain the support of mothers 
of all classes. 

Another important step forward was made in the 
starting, in 1888, of the Mothers' Union Journal, at 
Lady Jenkyns' suggestion, and under her able editorship. 
Now that the Journal has attained its present considerable 
size, and vast circulation, it is interesting to recall the 
fact that it was first issued as quite a small leaflet, to 
supplement Mrs. Sumner 's personal work by circulating 
a quarterly letter from her to the many new Branches 
of the Union which it would be beyond her power to visit. 
8000 of these papers were issued in the first year, but 
by the end of 1889 they had been more than doubled 
in size, while the circulation had risen to over 46,000. 

Two years later the work of the Journal was supple 
mented by the publication of Mothers in Council, to 
cater for a different circle of readers, and in this second 



34 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

venture both Bishop* and Mrs. Stunner took a large 
share from the start. They made themselves responsible 
for the initial loss, and shared the literary work with 
Miss Charlotte Yonge, who edited it until her last illness. 
Piles of letters from Miss Yonge have survived among 
Mrs. Sumner's papers, showing how closely and harmoni 
ously they worked together. The Bishop himself took 
over the editorship for some years after Miss Yonge's 
death in 1901, and when the periodical was finally handed 
over to the Centre, a substantial sum of accumulated 
profits went with it. 

In 1890 Mrs. Sumner addressed a meeting in London 
which resulted in the starting of a London Diocesan 
Branch of the Mothers' Union in the London Diocese, 
largely through the initiative of Lady Horatia Erskine 
and the Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard. Two years later 
the first general Conference of the Union was convened 
in London, at which it was reported that the Society 
was then at work in twenty-eight dioceses, the number 
of Branches being 1550, with a total membership of 
over 60,000. This wide extension of the work seemed 
to call for a central organisation, which the Foundress 
herself advocated, but it was not found possible, on 
that occasion, to advance beyond a decision to hold an 
Annual Conference of representatives from all the dioceses, 
for the discussion of questions affecting the work of the 
Union. 

It took three more years to develop the centralisation 
of the work, and during that time Mrs. Sumner's own 
energies were greatly taken up with the care of her 
husband. His consecration, as Bishop of Guildford, 
in 1888, had entailed an increasing amount of work 

* Archdeacon Sumner was consecrated Bishop of Guildford 
in 1888. 



WINCHESTER— THE FIRST TEN YEARS 35 

upon him, and in 1892 he found himself forced to rest. 
An accident that summer, in which he broke his right 
leg, increased his disabilities, and he and Mrs. Sumner 
spent the following winter in Algiers. Even after they 
had returned to Winchester, Mrs. Sumner found her 
presence very needful at home, and she was ready to 
welcome the completion, in 1895, of a scheme for establish 
ing a central Mothers' Union Organisation in London, 
to be governed by a Council of Diocesan Presidents and 
Elected Members, under a Central President. 

"Thus," as Lady Horatia Erskine wrote, "the much- 
needed Central Organisation became an accomplished fact, 
the heart of a great body, beating through all its many 
veins and arteries with the life derived from the love of 
God and the desire to promote His Kingdom in all the 
* families of the earth.'" 

Needless to say, the Foundress of the Mothers' Union 
was unanimously elected to the office of Central President, 
and the first Central Council was held, under her leader 
ship, in May 1896. 




(The earliest badge of the Mothers' Union.) 



CHAPTER V 



OVERSEAS 

"Uniting many hearts in many lands, 
And drawing all to thoughts of things above." 

Epitaph on Lady Augusta Stanley. 

THIS seems to be the most fitting point at which 
to speak of Mrs. Sumner's part in the world-wide 
extension of the Mothers' Union overseas. That 
extension was just beginning to make itself felt at the 
time when the centralisation of the Society was accom 
plished, and it is a significant point to note in the after- 
history of the work, that the growth of this overseas 
work has kept pace with the strengthening of the centre. 

The year 1893 saw the starting of the Mothers' Union 
in New Zealand and Australia; Tasmania, India and 
Ceylon coming next, in 1895; and the West Indies, 
Canada, Japan, Cairo, Malta and South America following 
in the course of the next four years. South Africa had to 
wait until the end of the War, in 1902, and after that 
the rate of development grew increasingly rapid, in all 
parts of the world. The history of this continued advance 
" into all the world " must be read elsewhere, but no 
picture of Mrs. Sumner's life would be complete without 
some reference to the personal share which she herself 
took in it, by her pen, by her prayers, and by that true 
mother's love that went out to all the daughter Branches 
of her beloved Union in far-off lands. 

Of that love, and of the quick response it never failed 
to evoke, I am glad to be able to give a reminiscence 



OVERSEAS 37 

which Miss Gertrude King * supplies from her own 
experience. 

" From the moment that our Foundress heard of the need 
of Mothers' Union work in Madagascar, she took the Malagasy 
mother to her heart. Needless to say they idealised her, 
and she became to them an embodiment of all that is highest 
and best in motherhood. Wonderful letters passed between 
them. Mrs. Sumner always began, ' My dear daughters,' and 
ended as ' your loving white mother.' She greatly treasured 
the following letter, which she received from the Madagascar 
Branch soon after it was started : — 

" * To Madam Sumner and the Mothers' Union over the 
sea (England): — 

Honoured Madam, 

We, the members of the Mothers' Union here in 
Madagascar, come to visit you and the Mothers' Union over 
the sea. We, your children, were very pleased to receive your 
letter of welcome into the Mothers' Union. We ask you to 
pray to God to help forward the Mothers' Union in the future, 
if it is His Will, and we are glad that Miss King has been sent 
to tell us about it, and to help it forward .... 

We are ninety-one mothers now, who promise to keep the 
rules, and we hope, by the blessing of God, the Union will 
become still larger. We thank you very, very much for the 
beautiful members' cards; we, your children in the Lord. 
We visit you, and say good-bye to you, and to the Mothers' 
Union over the seas. 

Hoy Rasoan Andrianina (in the name of all your children 
in the Union in Antananarivo).' 

" Some years later a returned missionary met Mrs. Sumner, 
and she said to him : ' Do you know that I have 500 dear black 
daughters in Madagascar ? ' Later on the 500 became 1000, 
and she still claimed them all unreservedly as her 4 dear 
daughters.' 

* Central Overseas Secretary to the Mothers' Union j formerly 
Diocesan Secretary in Madagascar. 



38 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

" The following message was taken home to her by a 
returning missionary: — 

"*Tell her,' the Malagasy members said, 'that we will 
try, by the grace of God, to hold the Faith and keep the com 
mandments, until we meet her in Paradise.' 

" In a letter, written in 1919, of thanks for a small present 
of Malagasy lace, Mrs. Sumner expressed her desire that all 
her * black daughters ' should know 4 how dear they are to 
me, and how earnestly I pray for them that they may have 
their hearts given to their Heavenly Father and our precious 
Saviour Jesus Christ, as faithful wives and true Christian 
mothers, dedicating their children in Holy Baptism, filled with 
the Holy Spirit, and training them for eternal happiness in 
their heavenly Home .... Do tell my Malagasy members 
how much I love them and pray for them, as well as for others 
who are so near and dear to me. Oh ! may we meet, when 
this life is over, in the glorious Presence of our Blessed 
Lord.'" 

It was the living personality that shone out through 
all Mrs. Sumner's letters, which made them so potent 
a force in strengthening the bond of union with mothers 
overseas. In a letter from some Australian members to 
their Foundress, they sent her their loving assurance that 
they blessed God " for what you are, as well as for what 
you are doing for mothers, and for generations to come " ; 
and a rather solitary worker in South Africa wrote : — 

*' You know, don't you, that we out here, in this far away 
corner of the Vineyard, say, * God bless Mrs. Sumner,' thanking 
Him for having given you the inspiration and the zeal and 
the courage to start the Mothers' Union, and patience to put 
it on such a firm basis ? " 

This last was a point often referred to, as giving the 
Mothers' Union its great value as a means of raising the 
ideal of motherhood. From China, when the work was 
started there, came word that Mrs. Sumner's insistence 
upon the reverence due from a mother to the infant life 
came from God, was the teaching most needed to 



OVERSEAS 39 

counteract that disregard of the sanctity of life which 
has cast s,o grim a shadow over Chinese homes. 

A letter from a member in China, which Mrs. Sumner 
greatly treasured, is interesting to read in the translation 
that accompanied it. 

" From China — Kutien City — Hill of New Righteousness, 
' Female Light ' Women's School. 
Greetings to the Bishop's wife ! All happiness and peace ! 

We hear that the Mothers' Union was started by your 
Honourable Person. We feel that it was of God's grace that 
you were allowed to begin such a Union, thus showing your 
great love to the little, little children of China, and by this 
means also to teach us women of China good methods of care 
fully bringing up, and educating our children — a work beyond 
our human strength. We beg you and all other members of the 
Mothers' Union to pray for us, that we mothers may receive 
God's Holy Spirit, to do this work in His strength. 

At our last meeting the letter written by your Honourable 
Person was read to us, and all present were delighted to hear 
it. Ten new members joined our Union that afternoon, stirred 
by your letter. We do so thank God for this, and will not 
cease to be thankful. 

I rejoice that my six grandchildren can have such good, 
Christian teaching. 

The letter of Ding Daik Ching, for the Kutien Branch of 
the Mothers' Union." 

It is tempting to go on quoting from the old packets 
of letters from all parts of the world, treasured by her 
to whom they were written for the sake of the love they 
expressed, but one more must suffice, this time from India, 
whence Miss Rix wrote : — 

" I gave your message to the mothers at the last meeting. 
They were most grateful, and begged to send you their warmest 
salaams and thanks for your prayers and your remembrances . . . 
Some of the keener spirits among them have banded themselves 
into a little company for holding cottage meetings, and paying 
visits, to stir up the careless and indifferent," 



40 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

And a little later on she tells how Mrs. Sumner's last 
letter to the Branch had been translated into Tamil, to 
the great pleasure of the members. 

Over and over again one reads, in different words, 
the same assurance of eager appreciation of all the little 
personal tokens which went out in such generous profusion 
from the old red house by the Cathedral, far and wide 
across the seas, into ancient kingdoms and new lands. 
One New Zealand worker wrote, on her return from a visit 
to the old country, to tell of the interest aroused in her 
members by the photographs of Winchester Cathedral 
she had brought back with her — " particularly the one 
showing your own home." 

A photograph of the Foundress herself, needless to say, 
was still more highly prized when she sent it, as she 
sometimes did, with a letter of motherly love and greeting 
to some new Branch. Her " far-away daughters " were 
very near her heart, and she made it a rule not to let a 
day pass without bringing their needs, together with her 
own, to God in prayer and offering thanks on their behalf, 
for each new achievement granted to them through the 
Mothers' Union. 

It was a keen personal pleasure to her to be asked by 
some members in West Africa to join with them in praising 
God for "what the Mothers' Union has done for some 
homes in Lagos," or to hear from Australia of the splendid 
pioneer work done through the Branches there, in the 
cause of religious education. 

A personal relationship is so subtle a thing that one 
fears to spoil some of its beauty by emphasising it over 
much; yet, on the other hand, it is hardly possible to 
over-estimate the significance in the development of the 
Mothers' Union overseas, of the living bond of love and 
prayer which kept the Foundress, in her quiet home, 
linked with the loneliest member, and the remotest 
Branch, 



OVERSEAS 41 

As one Diocesan President wrote from Australia : — 

" So many of our mothers lived in England once, 
and some have been here quite a short time ; and it is so 
touching the way they come up to me at the meetings, 
and tell me of the English Branch to which they belonged, 
and how — in many cases they 4 once ' heard you speak, 
or ' once ' saw you." 

" She was a lady with white hair," was one member's 
reminiscence, " and a lovely smile ! And she spoke to us 
as if she loved us all." 

Another Australian worker, writing to Mrs. Sumner 
about an expedition made up-country to start a Branch 
in some isolated spot, insisted that " the best credentials 
I brought were that I had known you." 

If the personal link had been all, it might have promised 
ill for the continuance of the work based upon it, but 
Mrs. Sumner never relaxed her insistence upon those 
fundamental principles which were the true bond of 
union among members throughout the world, and upon 
the one aim to which they were all pledged, in the conquest 
of the nation's homes for God. 

At the first overseas Conference, held in London in 
1897, this was the point on which the Foundress chiefly 
dwelt, She spoke of the interest she had taken in other 
forms of work, and how it had at last struck her that almost 
all organisations of good work were hampered by the 
home influence being so often against them. By degrees 
she had come to realise that what was needed to spread 
Christ's Kingdom on earth was to win the homes for Him. 

And to this end, as she wrote to an Overseas President, 
44 we must get the members of our Mothers' Union to 
act as missionaries amongst their relations and friends, 
helping to bring the Christian life into the darkened homes 
where as yet our dear kord is not loved and honoured," 



42 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

THE GOLDEN WEDDING. 

On the 26th of July, 1898, the Bishop and Mrs. Sumner 
kept their Golden Wedding Day. The family part of 
the Commemoration came in the morning, when over 
thirty near relatives and friends joined with them at 
what was in the truest sense a Eucharist, in the Cathedral. 
In the afternoon a large gathering was assembled by the 
Diocesan Council of the Mothers' Union, at the old 
Palace of Wolvesey, whereat the Bishop and hL wife 
were to be the honoured guests. 

The main function of the afternoon was the presenta 
tion of various addresses and other tokens of the deep 
gratitude and affection which members of the Mothers' 
Union had learnt to feel for their Foundress. The gifts 
had all been chosen for their appropriateness to Mrs. 
Sumner's labours, and included some gold pencils, a 
beautiful old writing table with gilt fittings, and bank 
notes to the amount of £125, for the furtherance of 
the work. 

Mrs. Sumner's thanks were simply spoken, and referred 
mainly to the debt she owed to her husband in the work 
to which she had been called. " He has been my guide, 
adviser, and constant helper at every step in the history 
of the Mothers' Union, and without him I should never 
have been able to carry it on." 

And then, with one of her happy touches, she added, 
smiling : " As it is our Golden Wedding Day, you will 
bear with me if I praise my husband, and say we can 
look back on fifty years of happy, united, blessed life." 

To the Bishop of Guildford was left the official returning 
of thanks, and yet he too robbed it of most of its formality, 
as he spoke gratefully of the wonderful kindness that 
had been showered upon them all the day. 

" We have been receiving numberless telegrams, 
letters, ancj presents since the early morning, the door-bell 



OVERSEAS 43 

has been ringing incessantly, and this all shows the kind, 
loving feeling towards my dear wife and myself, which 
touches me deeply .... 

" I do not believe any one in this room, except myself, 
knows the hours she spends in work connected with the 
Mothers' Union. I know the Society is looked upon by 
some members of our family as my wife's youngest child, 
and I am afraid they sometimes think that the youngest 
child is taxing their mother's strength too much ! But 
I am confident that it is taxed in a good work. I believe 
that not until the last day comes shall we ever know the 
good which this Mothers' Union is doing, not only in 
England, or in this Diocese, but throughout the four 
quarters of the globe." 

A service of thanksgiving was held the next day in the 
Cathedral, at which some 1200 members of the Mothers' 
Union in the Winchester Deanery joined in thanksgiving 
for the work of the Union, and this was followed by another 
gathering at Wolvesey Palace, to give an opportunity 
for the presents to be seen, and for the Bishop and Mrs. 
Sumner to express their thanks in person to this larger 
company. 



CHAPTER VI. 



AN ENDING 
(1899—1909) 

"Being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not 
in heart." 

LOOKING through the records of the decade between 
Mrs. Sumner's "Golden" and "Diamond" 
Wedding celebrations, it is not easy to bear in mind 
the fact that these were the years from 70 to 80 in her age. 
They were as full as ever of work and interest, and on 
a wider scale than was feasible so long as the responsibility 
for the organisation of the Mothers' Union rested so 
heavily upon the shoulders of its Foundress. The fact of 
having completed her three score years and ten was to her 
no reason for laying down her task, but rather for striving 
more and more fervently to work while yet it was day. 

Her responsibilities as Central President had the first 
claim upon her work for the Society, and very faithfully 
did she fulfil them. The meetings of the Central Council 
and Committee, now held in London, were not only 
regularly attended by the President, but earnestly pre 
pared for also, by her own unfailing method of quiet 
prayer and waiting upon God. And the result was 
strikingly apparent to her fellow- workers. I think that 
throughout the whole task of collecting personal records 
and reminiscences of Mrs. Sumner, nothing has struck 
me more forcibly than the unanimity of the impressions 
retained by those who attended the Council in those 
parly days. 



AN ENDING 45 

One after another has chosen precisely the same points 
to emphasise. First, the personality of the President 
herself; the sweetness of temper which she combined 
with a very strong will, and her gracious, unfailing 
courtesy. And next — even more strongly — all alike 
were conscious of the " atmosphere of the Holy Spirit," 
as one has called it, that she brought into all their delibera 
tions. Her opening prayer was so real, some have said; 
it seemed to create a new and spiritual atmosphere, 
filled with the personal Presence of the Lord to Whom 
she would assuredly be turning for light and help in 
meeting each problem that arose. 

A letter received from one of the Vice-Presidents* 
voices the impressions of all. 

" 1 can truly say that I never attended our Executive 
Meetings without feeling that from the moment when our 
President asked God's blessing on the work we were about 
to undertake, it seemed as though His Spirit were indeed there, 
guiding and helping her, and making us all realise that it 
was His work that we were privileged to have a share in. 
I used to return home after those meetings strengthened and 
refreshed." 

The records of work done in Council and Committee 
belong to the history of the Society rather than of its 
Foundress, and must be looked for there. The one point 
I would note in this place — for it was a matter so near 
to Mrs. Sumner's heart — is that it was while still under 
her leadership that the Mothers' Union first stood forth 
before the world as a body of women definitely pledged 
to labour, and to fight, if need be, for the sanctity of 
Christian marriage. 

One tiny anecdote must be allowed a place; it is so 
characteristic. It was in those early days, when the 
first corporate efforts of the Union in this direction were 

* Mrs. W. H. Johnson, M.U. President in the Diocese of Chester. 



46 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

being planned, that a counsellor from outside, of cautious 
mind, urged Mrs. Sumner not to set her aims too high 
or plan impossibilities. 

" Where is the use," he asked, " in wasting your 
energies on things outside the scheme of practical 
politics ? " 

Quick as thought came the rejoinder — given quite 
simply, and not as an attempt to " score " — " Is God, 
then, outside the scheme of practical politics ? " 

THE WORK OF SPEAKING. 

This seems to be the place in which to touch more 
particularly upon Mrs. Sumner's methods and gifts of 
speaking, and her counsels to other speakers; not that 
these belong, in any exclusive sense, to the time when 
she was President, but only that they were necessarily 
brought then into greater prominence. Requests to speak 
in different parts of the country poured in upon her, and 
she had more time to spare for travelling now that she 
had been relieved of the detailed work of organisation. 

It seems strange to think of a speaker's heaviest work 
being undertaken after the age of 70, yet so it was with 
Mrs. Sumner, and the largest of all her meetings — a 
gathering of some 8000 in the London Albert Hall — was 
addressed by her when she was not far off 80 ! 

Her girlhood's training as a singer stood her in good 
stead, enabling her to keep that beautiful voice of hers 
serviceable to the end, and also to make it audible in even 
the largest halls, without effort to her hearers or herself. 
At a crowded meeting in that difficult place for sound, 
the Great Hall in the Westminster Church House, many 
who were present have told me that of all the speakers, 
men and women, Mrs. Sumner was the only one whose 
every word could be heard quite easily at the far end of 
the hall. 



AN ENDING 47 

A beautiful voice, carefully trained ; we must not lose 
sight of that second element in Mrs. Sumner's success 
as a speaker, for it was one upon which she herself laid 
constant stress. In all the advice she used to give to other 
speakers, she would insist upon the importance of learning, 
not merely how to speak at a meeting, but first and 
foremost how to produce and use the voice. Right breath 
ing, true enunciation, and the elimination of strain — 
all these, she considered, needed to be learnt and practised 
as a matter of voice-training. 

" You have to be taught to write, first of all," she 
would say, " and not straightway to write a letter. And 
just in the same way you must begin by learning to speak 
in the right way, before you can learn to speak at a meeting. 
If you can do the first, the second will be no trouble 
to you." 

Such was certainly her own experience, and her remark 
able success makes her advice worth listening to. Her 
counsels were practical, clear and very simple. The 
work of speaking, to her mind, demanded three distinct 
lines of preparation, and the method she advocated was 
the same for each; to make your preparation thorough, 
and then to forget it. 

She took first, as I have said, the preparation of 
the voice, as the instrument to be used ; her advice being : 
" Master your instrument ; learn to use your voice in the 
right way, and then you need never give it a thought at 
your meetings. It won't fail you." 

Next came the preparation of the mind, as the user 
of the instrument ; and this meant the clear and careful 
grouping of the subject to be dealt with. Mrs. Sumner 
was fond of recommending the " peg " method of working 
one's mind over the fundamental elements in the subject 
until certain definite points emerged, which could be 
ranged in order in the memory, as " pegs " whereon to 



48 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

hang the different parts of what has to be said. Here 
also she urged thoroughness in preparation, and most 
sincerely did she practise it herself. The old notes that 
have survived show how carefully she would write out 
beforehand not only the gist but the substance of what 
she had to say upon even the most familiar topics. To 
the very end of her work as a speaker, when the pen 
moved less lightly in fingers that were growing stiff, she 
would cover pages with almost the complete text of quite 
a simple address ; not that she needed or would use them 
when the time came, but simply to make her preparation 
as complete as possible. 

The third and crowning part in this preparation was, 
of course, that of the hearty to be made in an act of offering. 
The trained voice and the carefully arranged thoughts 
must be laid at the Master's Feet, for Him to bless and 
to use according to His will. This was no form of words 
with Mary Sumner, but the actual process which she 
carried out before every meeting she addressed. Having 
done her own part in preparation, she wanted to give 
God time to do His, by kneeling at His Feet in simple, 
humble waiting upon Him. The careful work and thought, 
once done, must be forgotten; merged in the thought 
of God, burnt up in the flame of His Spirit, in order that 
the result which should issue forth might be purged of 
the dross of self and self-seeking. Her daughter tells us 
how her mother would go apart for a quiet hour of prayer 
before the simplest village meeting no less than before 
her largest gatherings. 

The assurance of having her subject " at her fingers' 
ends " was not enough for Mrs. Sumner. It was not at 
her fingers' ends, she would say, but in her heart that a 
speaker must have her subject, if she would reach the 
hearts of others ; and for this she must look to God for 
the in-breathed power of His Holy Spirit. 



AN ENDING 49 

Yet although Mrs. Sumner set her standard of prepara 
tion high, she would not allow that it was beyond the 
reach of any one with a real message to give, and a live 
enthusiasm in the giving of it. Those she held to be the 
two indispensable elements in a speaker's equipment. 

" One great secret of success in speaking is to be thoroughly 
4 enthused ' with one's subject — to have mind and heart full 
of it, to feel every word we utter — then ' the living thought 
will speak the winged word ; for thoughts that breathe always 
find words that burn.' .... 

" . . . . Enthusiasm is a thorough belief in the greatness 
and importance of the cause we have taken up, and the crusade 
of the Mothers' Union is to try and win every home in the 
land for our Sovereign Master, through the influence of the 
mothers." 

Another secret of success in speaking she summed up 
in Canon Fleming's phrase, as the " art of forgetting 
yourself and others " ; an art " not incompatible with the 
most careful study and the most finished utterance." 

I quote from some admirable " Hints to Speakers " 
(published as a leaflet), in which Mrs. Sumner makes an 
earnest appeal to the ordinary Enrolling Member to 
sacrifice her own shyness arid self-distrust in the cause 
of the Mothers' Union, and make a venture of faith in 
speaking to her fellow-members of the great things wherein 
all are equally concerned. 

" You can speak simply and readily to two or three 
people," she urged. " Why not to twenty or thirty ? 
You can say the few words that are necessary at a meeting 
of your own Branch ; why not also to another Branch in 
your own neighbourhood ? " 

That was Mrs. Sumner's great point — that no Mothers' 
Union worker had the right to say she could not speak 
until she had tried, and she instanced, for the encouragement 
of others, her own early experience. 



50 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

" On one occasion a large band of mothers was awaiting 
the arrival of the speaker who had convened them. They 
waited in vain. She was assailed by an unconquerable dread 
that day — she gave up the struggle, and the women were 
sent away; but the next tune she persevered through pain 
and difficulty, and now the fear and nervousness has in the 
main departed. 

" .... I am convinced that nine out of ten educated 
women could become good speakers, and touch the hearts 
of mothers of all classes, if they would simply carry out some 
of the practical suggestions given, and share with others the 
strong convictions they themselves have formed of their 
responsibilities .... 

44 .... Christ has need of your individual work — no 
one else can do it ; if you refuse, that particular piece of work 
will be left undone." 

And the loss would be not only to the work, but to 
the worker ; that was the other side of the truth, which 
she dwelt upon elsewhere. " Every rejected opportunity 
of service makes life poorer, duller, less God-like." 

There stood the penalty of timorousness, and over 
against it was the promise of strength and help to those 
of good courage. Mrs. Sumner would often point to the 
rich rewards won by the speaker who learns to make 
ventures in the Name of the Lord; to the wonderful 
nearness to Christ which comes from clinging to His 
Presence; to the power which springs from dependence 
upon Him, and, above all, to the peace and poise of mind 
so vital to the work of speaking. 

" Make Him your Friend and Helper in this matter. He 
can keep you ' in perfect peace.' He only. He can quiet all 
your restless anxieties, and banish all your fears and your 
thoughts of self, and tune your mind to peace and harmony. 
That is His great work: 

4 Thou shalt know Him, when He comes, 
By the holy harmony 
That His Presence makes hi thee,' " 



AN ENDING 51 

Just one word must be added as to the effect which 
Mrs. Sumner's counsels have had upon those whom she 
sought to encourage to make the venture of speaking 
to others, and here I cannot do better than quote from 
two letters. The first was written to Mrs. Sumner herself, 
after an interview which her correspondent found " a 
real help and inspiration." 

" You have been so much used in the Master's service 
that I think you passed on some of your own fire. You made 
me feel that I must be 4 up and doing ' more bravely in my 
little corner of the Vineyard. ... I take much back with me, 
and I shall try to carry out your suggestions." 

Another worker, writing about Mrs. Sumner, says : — 
44 She has led even very timid and inefficient me to dare 
to speak to Mothers' Union Branches, because she made the 
Union such a great reality that one had to speak about it when 
no one else could or would." 

THE ALBERT HALL MEETING. 

It would not be possible to furnish a complete list of 
Mrs. Sumner's meetings in different parts of the country; 
still less to give any report of them all. It seems best, 
therefore, to deal rather fully with the great London 
gathering of October, 1908, as being fairly representative, 
and also in itself somewhat of a historic occasion. 

The meeting was fully reported in various newspapers, 
from one of which I quote here. 

" A great meeting for members of the Mothers' Union was 
held in the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, on October 31st, 
under the presidency of the Bishop of Stepney, now Arch 
bishop of York. The assembly numbered over 8000, and 
many requests for tickets had had to be refused. The gathering 
was representative of every class. Mrs. Sumner, Central 
President of the Mothers' Union, was one of the speakers, and 
when she entered the Hall with the Bishop of Stepney a most 



52 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

hearty reception was accorded her. Other speakers were the 
Bishop of Manchester, Mrs. Oluwole, Mrs. Clare Goslett and 
the Rev. H. Woollcombe. 

*' In the course of the Chairman's opening address he begged 
his hearers to realise what was so strongly present in his own 
mind, that in speaking to those many thousands in the Mothers' 
Union, he was speaking to many thousands of the ministers 
of God. He appealed very earnestly to every mother there 
to look up continually into the Face of Him — the Almighty 
Father — after Whom all fatherhood is named, and to realise 
that from Him direct they receive a ministry — the ministry 
of the protection and consecration of the home. ... He 
concluded a very fine speech upon the vocation of mother 
hood by calling upon ' one whom you all have met to listen 
to and to honour — one who is never old in appearance, and 
everlastingly young in heart — Mrs. Sumner ! 

" When Mrs. Sumner stood up to speak the immense 
assembly rose as one to their feet, and greeted her with cheers 
and applause and the waving of handkerchiefs. 

" Mrs. Sumner said she could hardly express how over 
whelmed she felt with their kindness, their sympathy, and 
their love. It was an immense joy to her to meet them all, 
and she earnestly trusted that this splendid gathering — they 
had never had such a large one before — would result in a much 
stronger belief in the three objects for which they were working. 

" . . . . The Mothers' Union had just come of age, it was 
21 years old, and she was happy to say they had now nearly 
covered the Empire with their number of over a quarter- ! 
of-a-million members and associates, and 6000 branches. Lastl 
year the numbers who joined them were 22,895. Besides that t 
she was glad to say their objects and their rules had been| 
translated into twelve different languages, and they were J 
winning a way in other countries. 

"It might be said that in this country the two greatest 
institutions, the two Divine institutions, were the Church 
and the Home. The Home based on holy marriage — faithful 
marriage — was appointed by God for the good of humanity 
when He created the world. She wanted them to remember 



AN ENDING 58 

that the character of the whole nation was formed in the 
Home. People talked about the schools, and a great help 
they were, when they were Christian schools ; but it was in the 
Home — God's own institution — that the character of the 
nation was truly formed .... 

" . . . . There was nothing more beautiful than the way in 
which a little child was naturally attracted by the person 
of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The secret of a noble life 
was to teach the child that he was a soldier of Christ, and 
they must begin the battle of life early. 

" . . . . They must know what they believed, so that they 
could teach their children. Inculcate the vital truths of 
Christianity, and they armed children for the time when they 
left home, and stepped into the great world, and took their 
part in the battle of life. . . . 

" She ended her eloquent address with a profoundly moving 
appeal, which reached the ears of all the thousands present, 
and their hearts also — coming, as it clearly did, directly from 
her own. 

" ' O my sisters ! with all my heart and soul I beseech 
you to be earnest in prayer and effort, not only so that your 
own homes may shine gloriously for our Master Christ, but 
also that you may try to win over other homes for Him.' " 

THE OLD RED HOUSE. 

From this picture of the vast hall, and the crowded 
meeting, and the thousands of Mothers' Union members 
eagerly listening to every word their Foundress spoke to 
them — eagerly striving to gain a look, a word, a smile 
from her as she left the Hall — it is pleasant to follow 
her back to the old red house in the Cathedral Close, 
where the peaceful life went on, as undisturbed, and as 
deeply prized by her as though she had no calls to take 
her beyond those quiet precincts. 

Gradually, as the first decade of the new century went by, 
Mrs. Sumner found herself drawn more and more continu 
ously within the circle of the home, owing to the failure 



54 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

of her husband's health. Each year that passed brought 
some diminution of the Bishop's strength, and with it the 
laying down of one after another of the labours that he 
loved. He resigned the office of Archdeacon in 1900, 
his work as Bishop of Guildford in 1906, and the Canonry 
in his beloved Cathedral shortly afterwards. This was the 
greatest wrench of all, but happily it did not entail leaving 
the home which had grown so dear to hit, wife and himself 
in the twenty-two years throughout which they had made 
it such a " sunny meeting-ground for all and sundry." 

So the Bishop of Southampton* describes it, in 
speaking of the days when he succeeded Dr. Sumner as 
Suffragan Bishop. 

" It was all so 4 fair as well as good ' — the home-life in the 
latest days of more than sixty sunny years, with the gentle 
Bishop at one end of the table, and the pretty old lady at the 
other. The quiet garden beyond, that she so dearly loved, 
was just the outer setting and expression of the home peace 
within, from whence emanated all that amazing energy." 

It is a pleasant picture of the life in the old red house ; 
and side by side with it other glimpses also take shape 
from treasured memories. In one of these we see the 
garden, on a summer's afternoon, thronged with mothers 
young and old, whom the Bishop and his wife are enter 
taining at tea, and to whom they will presently each speak 
a few simple words of good cheer. 

That is a frequent scene, as also is the next, when the 
garden walls ring with the merry shouts of choir boys 
from the Cathedral, invited there for games followed by 
an ample tea. Mrs. Sumner's love for boys, and her real 
enjoyment of their company, never left her. She delighted 
in watching them at play which recalled the old happy 

* Dr. Cecil Boutflower, consecrated Bishop of Dorking in 
1906; became Bishop of South Tokyo in 1909, and Bishop of 
Southampton in 1921. 



AN ENDING 55 

days with her brother at Hope End, and when full justice 
had been done to the tea provided, she would take them 
up to the roomy, old-fashioned drawing room for a con 
cluding game of " musical chairs," playing for them herself, 
her daughter tells us, " the same merry tunes and polkas 
that she had played for us when we were children." 

A fresh picture is called up, of the hall door hospitably 
open, and the white-haired mistress of the house standing 
there to welcome her own dear ones when they came to 
visit her. Children and grandchildren — great grand 
children, too, as the years went on — nephews and nieces, 
all used to look forward to the loving greeting which they 
knew would await them on the very threshold of the home. 

"Again and again I can picture," writes one of them, 
" how she would be standing at the door when we arrived, 
her arms stretched out in welcome." And when the time 
came for departure it would be just the same. " She 
insisted, even in her old age, upon coming to the door, 
and waving farewell as long as she could see us." 

One glimpse more ; outside in the garden this time, in 
the golden eventide. Husband and wife are alone together 
now ; seated perhaps under the shadow of the cedar tree, 
or strolling in the sunshine up and down the lawn, or 
along the path leading to the stream at the far end. Or 
they may make a slower progress beside the flower- 
borders dear to them both, to note the blossoming of 
some cherished plant, or to pause while Mrs. Sumner clips 
off a dead flower or straggling leaf-spray ; for the perfect 
order of her garden was very near to her heart. And 
then, perhaps, the Cathedral bells begin to chime, and 
they turn their steps out from the walled garden and along 
the flagged path to the Church door, to join together in 
the prayer and praise which link their earthly life and 
love with things eternal. 



56 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER 

THE DIAMOND WEDDING 

The Diamond Wedding Day (July 26th, 1908) found 
Mrs. Sumner in her 80th year, and the Bishop just 84. 
His health was too frail for any formal function, and 
the wedding-day itself, which fell on a Sunday, was com 
memorated only by a gathering of the innermost family 
circle, at the old house, and in the Cathedral. 

As Mrs. Sumner wrote to a friend: — 

" You little know how touched I am by the tender 
sympathy, love and good wishes of my beloved fellow-workers 
in all classes at this very eventful moment in our lives. We 
have our children with us, and we are simply crowned with 
love — affectionate letters, telegrams, flowers, gifts, and kind 
friends coming to wish us joy." 

On the Monday a very simple presentation was made 
of the Diamond Wedding gift sent by the members of 
the Central Council of the Mothers' Union to its beloved 
Foundress. It took the attractive and unique form of 
a dwarf folding-screen inscribed with an Address, followed 
by the signatures of all the members of Council from all 
parts of the world. The collection of these must have been 
in itself a true labour of love, and they were inset each 
in its own small space in the white vellum face of the 
screen, in its second and third panels, and surrounded with 
finely illuminated borders. No pains had been spared 
to make the array of signatures complete, and the deep 
interest of the Queen and Princesses in the Mothers' 
Union had made it possible to include autographs from 
Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary (as Princess of Wales) 
and other Royal Patronesses. The first panel of the 
screen bore the Address, also illuminated, and surmounted 
by a miniature copy of a Raphael Madonna and Child. 

Lady Horatia Erskine had had the chief share in 
carrying out this very gracious tribute, and it was much 
to her disappointment that she found herself unable to 



AN ENDING 57 

make the presentation in person. Mrs. Herbert Morrell 
undertook the task, together with the Central Secretary, 
Mrs. Matthew, and they conveyed the screen to the Close 
and presented it, with appropriate congratulations to the 
Bishop and Mrs. Sumner, in the presence of the assembled 
family. It was a most brief and simple little ceremony, 
as Mrs. Morrell wrote to Lady Horatia Erskine. 

" Jt was all over in five minutes, but it was a most touching 
little scene, and one I shall never forget. The dear old lady 
was too much overcome to speak. The Bishop said, 4 1 can't 
make a speech, but I do thank you,' and then they kissed 
each other." 

THE PARTING. 

After the Diamond Wedding came the great Albert 
Hall Meeting already mentioned, and then followed a 
time of deepening quiet in the old red house, as the shadow 
of parting drew more near. Mrs. Sumner found herself 
obliged to claim more and more exemption from the 
public side of her work, for " my dearest Bishop needs 
me, " she wrote, " and he and our home must come first." 
Only sometimes, when her presence seemed specially 
needed at some meeting, would she answer the call, 
if one of her daughters could come to be with their father 
in her stead. 

Almost the last of these occasions was the Mothers' 
Union Council Meeting in the spring of 1909, when Mrs. 
Sumner presided for the last time, and sent out from the 
Council a letter rallying the forces of the Union to a com 
bined resistance to all attacks upon the sanctity of 
marriage. When the Council next met, on the 8th of 
December in that year, to make further plans for the 
campaign decided upon, Mrs. Sumner was not there. Her 
resignation of the Presidentship was laid before the 
Council, to be received with sadness made deeper by the 
knowledge of the sorrow that lay behind it. 



58 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

The culmination of that sorrow was too imminent 
for the occasion to be one of many words, but Mrs. 
Davidson (wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury) gathered 
up in a few sentences the thoughts which were in the 
hearts of all present, with regard to their Foundress. 

" The Mothers' Union owes its life to her — her personality 
shines out through it, and her intense burning desire that 
through our homes our nation's life shall increase in what 
soever is pure, and lovely, and of good report. The conception 
of binding mothers together in a prayerful body, holding this 
high standard and thus strengthening the foundations of a truly 
upright and religious national life, is a great one." 

Very earnestly did the members of Council join that 
day in prayer for the Mother of the Mothers' Union, that 
she might be upheld in love's last silent ministry of bearing 
her dear one company as far as might be into the unseen. 

The past months had been, as she herself described 
them, " one quiet sailing onwards, as it were, along 
a placid stream to the gates of Eternity," and when 
December came those gates were well-nigh reached. On 
December 9th husband and wife received for the last 
time together the blessed Sacrament which had hallowed 
their love through all their sixty-one years of wedded life, 
and then followed two days of that mysterious silence in 
which souls that are closely knit seem able to go forward 
together into the dark valley, so far as the living may 
penetrate its shadows. 

Into that last stage of love's earthly journey no other 
eyes can pry, nor into the moment of parting when it comes 
at last, and one of the twain must return, alone, to the 
empty home and the busy world outside it, whilst the 
other goes forward into the nearer Presence of the Lord. 

Bishop Sumner died on December llth, 1909, and 
five days later his body was carried out of the home which 



AN ENDING 59 

he had entered with his wife on just such a December 
day twenty-four years before, and was laid to rest under 
the shadow of the Cathedral, in the space of green beyond 
its eastern end. 

" So at last," as the Archbishop of York wrote to 
Mrs. Sumner, " the end, or rather the new beginning surely, 
has come, and your dear husband has passed through death 
into life. . . . 

" It must be almost impossible for you to realise that a 
companionship so close and beautiful, lasting unbroken for 
so many years, is closed. But, indeed, it cannot be closed. 
It can only change its conditions and its sphere. It becomes 
spiritual. It will soon, we cannot doubt, become eternal, yet, 
a vanishing of the familiar, beautiful figure, the silence of 
the familiar voice must be very hard to bear. 

" Your friends — and among them will be thousands of 
women whom you have helped, by word and by living example, 
to realise the sanctity of marriage and the beauty of a true 
home — sincerely pray that the Holy Spirit Himself may comfort 
and strengthen and sustain you till your love and companion 
ship is perfected in the true and lasting world." 



CHAPTER VII 

THE GREAT CAUSE 
(1910—1917) 

" Yet not in solitude, if Christ anear me, 

Waketh Him workers for the great employ ; 
O not in solitude, if souls that hear me 

Catch from my joyaunce the surprise of joy 1 " 

HE lines come to one's mind in recalling Mrs. Sumner's 
widowed years. They were, assuredly, neither lonely 
nor unhappy years, although lived, as she herself 
wrote, in " perpetual realisation of parting from one 
whose tender and unselfish love crowned my heart and 
life with never-failing peace and joy." Her faith in the 
Communion of Saints was far too real, and too radiant, 
not to lighten her sorrow, even at its darkest hour. 

That, for one thing, and also she took her bereavement 
as simply as she had taken her happiness, from God's 
Hand, and saw in it His call for a yet fuller offering of 
her time and strength in His service. As her daughter 
tells us: — 

" My mother always used to tell any who were in 
sorrow, through the loss of their dear ones, that work 
for God was the greatest solace, and she herself certainly 
found it so." 

The two causes to which Mrs. Sumner principally 
gave herself during the years that remained to her were 
the religious education of children, and the sanctity of 
marriage. Or rather, it would be truer to speak of them 
not as two causes, but as two aspects of the one great 
cause to which she had consecrated all her powers — the 



THE GREAT CAUSE 61 

winning of the nation's homes for Christ her Lord. That 
one single aim was constantly before her, whether she 
threw her energies into combating influences perilous 
to the faith of little children, or into a strong resistance 
to every attempt at loosening the tie of marriage. 

It was in this latter direction that her chief efforts had 
been directed during the last year that she was Central 
President, and her retirement in no way lessened the 
zeal with which she resumed them as soon as she was 
able to do so, after her husband's death. She was ill 
for some time during that spring of 1910, " and I remember 
well " — her daughter writes — " how eagerly, even in her 
illness, my mother would look daily for the reports of the 
workers who were collecting signatures to the Mothers' 
Union protest against the proposed 4 facilities for Divorce,' 
and would add the numbers, day by day, to those already 
sent in." 

A visit from Lady Horatia Erskine, early in the year, 
touched Mrs. Sumner deeply in its double purpose, which 
was to express the heartfelt sympathy of the Mothers' 
Union in the sorrow of their Foundress, and also to keep 
her in touch with the progress of the movement she had 
herself initiated in resistance to the proposed alterations 
in the Law of Divorce. 

Events moved rapidly that spring, in preparation 
for the Royal Commission on Divorce which was to be 
held; and under the wise and courageous leadership of 
the new Central President — the Dowager Countess of 
Chichester — the corporate efforts started by Mrs. Sumner 
were effectually developed, and the Mothers' Union was 
able to stand forth before the world as a strong and 
united body of Christian women, resolute to uphold the 
sanctity of marriage against all attacks. The line taken 
by the Society as a whole, and the methods of work 
employed, are matters for the Mothers' Union History, 



62 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

and are dealt with there (Chapter II). What neither that 
nor any other record can tell is the part played by Mrs. 
Sumner's influence, and her prayers, in all those strenuous 
efforts and difficult deliberations with which she identified 
herself as wholeheartedly as when her own hand had been 
at the helm. 

"We are working our hardest against divorce," she 
wrote to one friend, ending, characteristically : " God 
bless us all, and inspire us mightily ! " 

Her pen was as busy as ever, as the packets of answers 
to her letters show; some from the M.P.s to whom she 
wrote personally ; some from the highest leaders in Church 
and State. The letters she received from many of the 
Bishops bear striking witness to the value in which they 
held the work which the Mothers' Union was able to do 
in defence of the sanctity of marriage. Requests occur 
frequently for more copies of the leaflets sent, with a view 
to their circulation among the clergy. 

The 7th of June, 1910, was the day fixed for the 
examination, at the Royal Commission on Divorce, of 
the three witnesses chosen to represent the Mothers' Union, 
and when the time of this very trying ordeal arrived, they 
knew that the mother-heart of their Foundress was lifted 
up in prayer for them. 

Mrs. Sumner's own view of the position of the Mothers' 
Union in this matter is summed up clearly and completely 
in the following brief statement* : — 

" We, as Christian women, must recognise the fact that 
we can, with the help of our husbands, and by our mutual 
example and influence, resist and overcome the present attack 
on Marriage. This we set ourselves to do, as the first object of 
the Mothers' Union. We hold that marriage is indissoluble, 
and that children, be they few or many, are an heritage and 
a gift that cometh of the Lord." 

* From a paper on Marriage which she wrote for Mothers in 
Council, 1896. 



THE GREAT CAUSE 63 

Those were the general principles for which the 
Foundress of the Mothers' Union unwaveringly stood, 
and in defence of which she was bold to call upon the 
support of all Christian women whom she could in any 
manner reach, by her words, her influence, or her prayers. 

" God only knows how earnestly I entreat the united 
prayer and help of every true-hearted wife, especially of every 
member of the Mothers' Union, for this ' first object ' of our 
Society, because the issues of our national life, and the religious 
future of the English-speaking race, are formed in the homes, 
and founded on Christian marriage. Every wife and mother 
in the land can work marvels in her own home, for her husband 
and children, and thus win the eternal gratitude of the age 
in which she lives." 

The manner in which these marvels were to be wrought 
in married life was quite clear to Mrs. Sumner. Prayer 
was, of course, the first essential, and silence the second. 
It is entirely characteristic of her method of approach 
to every problem, that side by side with her widest appeals 
to general principles she places a simple counsel for daily 
practice. 

"It is a simple but fundamental rule for husband 
and wife to maintain absolute silence with regard to 
their mutual faults and failings. ... It is impossible 
to suppose that any man or woman is perfect, and married 
people must be absolutely loyal to one another; never 
uttering a word to any human being as to each other's 
imperfections. ... If there is a trial, or misunderstanding, 
or bad habit, which shadows daily life, there is only one 
Person in Whom the husband and wife may confide — 
to Whom they may speak quite freely — and He is the 
only Being Who can really help them in their difficulties. 
He alone can rule hearts and lives — our Lord Jesus 
Christ ! . . . . Our own married life is between ourselves 
and God." 



64 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

Homely and obvious counsel, it may sound ; " old- 
fashioned," possibly, in its insistence upon the loyal 
reticence in which the writer had been brought up; but 
not necessarily on that account to be despised. 

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. 

This subject was very specially before Mrs. Sumner's 
mind throughout the closing years of her life. Her 
husband's keen interest in education had kept her in 
touch with the different problems which the new century 
brought to the fore, and enabled her to grasp their 
significance with a quickness which made it difficult to 
remember her eighty years. She was among the foremost 
to insist upon the need for united effort in fighting for 
the children's right to Christian teaching in the day 
schools, and in combating the evil wrought by organised 
anti-Christian teaching on Sundays. And both of these 
campaigns, she urged, were matters in which the Mothers' 
Union was vitally concerned. 

It is worth noting that a leaflet entitled "A Grave 
Peril," which Mrs. Sumner wrote so far back as 1911, 
on the subject of anti-Christian Sunday Schools, was 
reprinted by the Mothers' Union in 1921 as being just 
what was needed at the present time. It was written 
with the two clear convictions in which the Foundress 
of the Mothers' Union never wavered. The first was 
that the Society could not possibly stand outside a battle 
for the children's faith. In her own burning words: — 

" In loyalty to God, and to our Saviour Jesus Christ, 
we can never rest until this great sin and wrong to the children 
of our nation (who are the future fathers and mothers) is 
done away." 

That was her first point, and the second was that 
the vital part of the battle must be fought in the home, 
and by parents themselves. 



THE GREAT CAUSE 65 

" Parents are the people who can resist the secularising 
of our schools," she wrote. " I want an individual 
propagandism in the bad homes, to win careless and 
irresponsible parents." 

And again, in a letter to another friend: — 

" I know the terrible anti-Christian teaching that is being 
given, and that much is being done in many directions against 
it, but I do implore those who desire to work against it 
thoroughly to try to get hold of parents as well as children. 
For the poor children go back from Christian teaching into 
homes where all true Faith is treated with scorn and defiance ; 
and it is in the home — by the example and teaching of parents — 
that the character of children is formed, and their religious 
faith is taught." 

That was, unwaveringly, the line of her appeal, in 
rallying her fellow-members in the Mothers' Union to 
defend their children's faith against these growing 
perils. 

" Oh ! do get hold of the fathers and mothers ! " 
she entreats in another letter, enclosing a prayer which 
she herself, in her dauntless fashion, had prayed daily 
for weeks and months — " even for two years " — for 
different parents, " and it has been answered by absolute 
change of heart and life. . . . The days we are living in 
are very alarming, but God is with us, and in the strength 
of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall overcome." 

The next passage is from a letter which Mrs. Sumner 
wrote to several Bishops during the autumn of 1910 : — 

44 The root of a national reformation is in the hands of 
parents and the Home — God's place for the character-training 
of His human creatures .... I feel sick at heart that fathers, 
as well as mothers, are not looked upon as the great character- 
trainers of our race. Let us strive to get them, by the grace 
of God, awakened in all homes, rich and poor, and we shall 
strike at the very heart of irreligion and unbelief." 

Letter after letter, to friends and fellow-workers, is 

p 



66 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

filled with the eager longing to rouse others to join in 
the conflict to which she was giving herself unstintingly. 
44 1 am living in prayer that we may gain support for our 
efforts to raise the Christian standard of teaching in all schools 
.... May God inspire us ! and let the one great object of 
the Mothers' Union be to wake up conscience in fathers, 
mothers and children, in every home, by ceaseless prayer 
and intercession, self-sacrifice, and dedication to Christ our 
Lord." 

As she wrote elsewhere, in words which might well 
serve to sum up her own way of working : — 

" Prayer and dogged work will win the day ! " 

HOME TEACHING. 

Side by side with Mr^. Sumner's appeals for concerted 
action, in the matter of religious education, there went 
always her practical counsels with regard to the mother's 
own especial task of giving her little ones their first, 
simplest and most important lessons in the Faith of 
Christ. It was one of the subjects upon which she liked 
best to speak ; drawing always upon the practical results 
of her own experience. 

The following passage is from her address to the 
Central Literature Conference, in 1912: — 

" I should also like to give a few simple words from my 
own experience. 

44 How to teach religion to little children ? I have no 
hesitation in giving the answer. It is by teaching them about 
the Personality of Christ Himself. There is no fascination so 
great to a child — as, indeed, to us all — as the Personality 
of Christ. I shall never forget how my own children were 
struck by it, when I did not think they could understand; 
how almost at once they realised the love of our Blessed 
Saviour, and the beauty of their consecration to Him in 
Baptism; how intensely they loved the idea of being His 



THE GREAT CAUSE 67 

little soldiers and servants; how they felt that they had His 
help in every moment of temptation and difficulty." 

The aptitude of a little child's mind for religion was 
a point upon which Mrs. Sumner continually insisted. 
As she wrote elsewhere: — 

" There is no greater mistake than to suppose that young 
children cannot grasp the fundamental truths of the Christian 
Faith. Every child seems to have a religious instinct, a desire 
for God, and a conscience which is divinely constituted to 
love the good and hate the evil. His faith is as strong an instinct 
as his appetite. He naturally seeks for nourishment; he 
naturally clings to and trusts his mother ; and he as naturally 
desires to know and love his Father in heaven Who created 
Him, His Saviour Who died for him, and the Holy Spirit 
Who helps him to fight against all sin. 

" But the Christian Faith rests specially on a Person, and 
therefore, when instructing the child in the Creed of the 
Christian, it is all important to give him the concrete, and not 
the abstract, in religion. 

" Parents will best learn how to teach and train their 
children by themselves taking their place at the feet of the 
Lord Jesus, and observing His attitude towards children — 
His love, His tenderness, His sympathy for them." 

From this thought of how parents may learn to teach 
their children there followed the thought of the training 
which they themselves should gain in the process. 

" Who can doubt that teaching the true faith to our children 
has a strong reflex action upon our own minds and characters, 
and that as parents we should be better men and women if 
we obeyed faithfully the command which has come down 
to us through the ages from God Himself, to teach our children 
the Faith handed down to us, ' that their posterity might 
know it.' It is one of the most imperative of all religious duties 
to hand down the knowledge of God's laws to the next genera 
tion, and this is the bounden duty of fathers as well as mothers 
— nothing can relieve them of it." 



68 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE. 

In addition to all the writing and speaking which 
Mrs. Sumner herself did in the great cause of Religious 
Education, she was continually endeavouring to secure 
addresses from other speakers versed in the subject. The 
following reminiscence by Mrs. George Chitty, of a visit 
undertaken for this purpose, gives us another glimpse — 
and a very delightful one — into the quiet home life in 
which Mrs. Sumner's untiring activities had their root and 
their power: — 

" In the early days of the War it fell to my lot to be sent 
by the M.U. to Winchester, to help in a Conference on Home 
Religious Training. Mrs. Sumner at once wrote to invite me, 
stranger though I was, to stay with her, and of course I grate 
fully accepted. The memories of that visit are still distinct 
and vivid, for it has left an impression of absolute peace and 
serenity which must, one imagines, have been entirely character 
istic of that well-ordered home. 

" I arrived in the morning, in order to have time to settle 
the details of the meeting, but Mrs. Sumner at once with 
gentle firmness insisted on rest and refreshment for her guest, 
in a peaceful bedroom full of old-world books and pictures, 
and looking out on the grey Cathedral. Later came a quiet 
talk with the hostess, one of whose keenest interests for so 
many years had been the very subject chosen for the afternoon's 
Conference. 

" I can never forget the quiet intensity with which Mrs. 
Sumner spoke, at that gathering, of the topics nearest to her 
heart, nor the passionate longing of her voice as she urged the 
paramount need of religion in English home-life, and begged 
the younger workers to concentrate all efforts upon this. 

" It was impossible to think of age and infirmity as one 
looked at her kindling face or heard the vibrant tones of that 
beautiful voice, or noted the gentle scorn with which she 
repudiated (for herself) the need of any rest during a long and 
busy day. She told me how she had trained her body to ' endure 
hardship ' by early rising, cold baths, and strenuous physical 



THE GREAT CAUSE 69 

exercises, so that now in her old age she could stand with 
impunity fatigue and exposure which many younger women 
could not face. 

" After the public meeting, we returned to the * haunt of 
ancient peace ' in the Close, and again the feeling of restful 
calm and serenity stole over one, remaining throughout the 
evening. 

" Mrs. Sumner played to us after dinner, and even 
accompanied songs with much zest and vigour, and finally 
she played the evening hymn for family prayers, when the 
old servants filed into the drawing room, and one could dis 
tinguish her voice, still sweet and true, as she led the singing. 

" Next morning before the brief visit ended, I was almost 
overwhelmed by her thoughtful kindness, and touched to 
the heart by the solicitous care with which each little detail 
which could minister to a visitor's comfort was personally 
seen to and carried out. The scrupulous courtesy of an earlier 
age seemed to surround one all the time, and in Mrs. Sumner 
it was combined with a keen interest in the movements of the 
day, and an eager desire to grasp all she could of the new 
generation's outlook and hopes. Perhaps the most touching 
incident of a deeply interesting visit was the loving kiss and 
blessing given at parting to the younger woman whom she 
so solemnly charged to carry on the great crusade for Christ 
amongst the mothers of England." 

THE CATHEDRAL BUTTRESSES 

Along the outside of Winchester Cathedral, against 
the South wall of the Nave, a row of massive stone 
buttresses were built, some ten years ago, for the support 
of the massive fabric. Some of these have been erected 
as memorials to individual upholders of the Faith in 
bygone years. Thus one bears the name of Ken, one 
that of Keble, while yet another has been simply dedicated 
as " a Thank-offering." Upon two more the following 
inscriptions are engraved on brass plates : — 



70 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

On the first: 

"TO THE GLOBY OF GOD, AND IN MEMORY OF 

GEOBGE HENKY SUMNEB, BISHOP OF GUILDFOBD, 

THE GUIDE AND COUNSELLOB OF HIS WIFE, MABY ELIZABETH SUMNEB, 

IN THE FOUNDING AND WQBK OF THE MOTHEBS' UNION, 

THIS BUTTBESS IS GIVEN BY MEMBEBS OF THE MOTHEBS 5 UNION 

THBOUGHOUT THE BBITISH EMPIBE : 

A.D. 1912." 

On the second: 

" TO THE GLOBY OF GOD AND IN GBATITUDE TO 

MABY ELIZABETH SUMNEB, FOUNDEB OF THE MOTHEBS' UNION, A.D. 1885, 

THIS BUTTBESS IS GIVEN BY MEMBEBS OF THE MOTHEBS 5 UNION THBOUGHOUT 

THE BBITISH EMPIBE, IN BECOGNITION OF HEB WOBK FOB THE 

SANCTITY OF HOME UFE. A.D. 1912." 

The idea of giving one buttress, as a memorial to Bishop 
Sumner, was started soon after his death, and was taken 
up so eagerly by members of the Mothers' Union in all 
parts of the world, that at the end of the year set for the 
collection of the sum it was found that enough had been 
contributed to pay for two buttresses instead of one. 
The total amount subscribed reached finally a total of 
about £1250, out of which, after both buttresses had 
been paid for, there still remained a sum of some £250, 
which was handed over, by Mrs. Sumner's desire, to the 
central funds of the Mothers' Union, to be used in promot 
ing the work Overseas. 

Mrs. Sumner was profoundly touched by this beautiful 
memorial to her husband's memory, and to the work she 
had been allowed to do for God, in the nation's homes. 
The sight of the buttresses never failed to thrill her with 
pleasure and thankfulness, and it was from the depths 
of her heart that she wrote, in her personal letter of grati 
tude to " the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and Enrolling 
Members, and all Members or Associates of the Mothers' 
Union who have so generously given two of the Buttresses 
supporting the South wall of Winchester Cathedral " : — 

" It is quite impossible to express in words my profound 
gratitude to you for a Memorial which is a mark of your personal 



THE GREAT CAUSE 71 

love and sympathy in my life-work, and also of your recogni 
tion of my Bishop's guidance and support in it. 

To me, the Memorial represented by the two Buttresses 
which are helping to strengthen our beautiful Cathedral will 
always be inexpressibly precious — assuring me as it does that 
you are heart to heart with me in the aims and objects of the 
Mothers' Union, and in the efforts we are making to win every 
Home in the Empire for God. 

No day of my life passes without earnest prayer for every 
Member of the Mothers' Union. 

Although I cannot hope to see you all and thank you 
personally for your great and valued gift, will you accept this 
letter as a proof of my love and gratitude, and I look forward 
to the day when, God grant, we may all meet in the Perfect 
Home above." 

A NORTHERN TOUR. 

It is amusing to come across one of the letters received 
by Mrs. Sumner in these years, from an old gentleman 
from whom she had sought to gain some active support 
in her labours, pleading as the reason for his refusal the 
fact that he had " now joined the Octogenarian Club " 
and might therefore be excused from any fresh exertions. 
The Foundress of the Mothers' Union assuredly did not 
regard her eighty-four years in that light when she set 
off, in 1913, for one of the longest and most important 
'* speaker's tours " she had ever made. The sundering 
of the beloved home-tie enabled her to extend her absence 
longer than she could formerly have done, and the passing 
of the years only fired her with fresh ardour to do her 
uttermost in the great cause of winning for God the 
nation's homes. 

Her visits were in the North of England, and were 
a wonderful series of personal triumphs at the close of 
her career as a speaker. In Southwell, in Newark — where 
she addressed a large Sunday afternoon gathering of men — 



72 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

Durham, Sunderland, and all the other northern towns 
at which she spoke, it was the same story. Crowds of 
women — often of men also — thronged about her, not 
only in the halls where she spoke, but outside also, in 
the street as she came out, and along the road as she 
drove away ; eager to get a touch of the hand if possible, 
or at least a word, a look, a smile. 

The climax was reached at York, where the Mothers' 
Union Conference was held that year, and where thousands 
of members of the Union congregated therefore, during 
the week. On the day of the large meetings held 
simultaneously in different halls, Mrs. Sumner drove 
from one to the other, to say a few words at each, and 
all who witnessed her course from place to place agree 
that it was like nothing so much as a royal progress. 

RETIREMENT. 

That tour was Mrs. Sumner's farewell to the North; 
indeed it was the end of any extensive journeying. Next 
year came the Great War, with its disorganisation of 
travelling, as of graver matters, and Mrs. Sumner's 
external activities gradually lessened, although not her 
zeal for the cause. 

Those years brought personal sorrows also to her, 
in the death of her two sons-in-law. Canon Gore-Browne 
died in 1914, and Sir Arthur Hey wood in 1916. Lady 
Heywood's health, too, was a great anxiety to her mother, 
and prevented their meeting as often as they both desired. 
Mrs. Sumner had, however, the comfort of frequent visits 
from her younger daughter, and from her son, Mr. Hey wood 
Sumner, and his wife. 

She still carried on as much work as she could do for 
the Mothers' Union, but in 1916 she resigned the office 
of Diocesan President, which she had held for thirty 
years. At the July meeting of the Winchester Diocesan 






THE GREAT CAUSE 78 

Council of the Mothers' Union, Mrs. Sumner announced 
her resignation. She felt, as she said, " that the time has 
come for a younger hand to guide the helm in this great 
Diocese, although I lose none of my interest in the work 
of the Mothers' Union, which I started with the approval 
and help of my beloved husband, the late Bishop of 
Guildford, in 1885 

" . . . . I have received a most kind letter from the 
Bishop of Winchester, which has greatly comforted me in 
the sadness which I naturally feel in resigning my position 
as President in this Diocese, but I still hope to be of use 
to my beloved Mothers' Union in many ways. 

" I do pray that it may ever be treated as a religious 
Society, its great object being to recognise the Home as 
a sacred Institution ordained by God. . . . 

" . . . . Since the year 1885 the greatest object of my.j 
life, outside my family, has been to try and win parents ] 
and homes for God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and that 
every father and mother should know the Creed of the 
Christian, and live it in prayer and self -dedication of 
heart and soul, according to the Divine Prayer: — 
" O Lord, fill me with Thy Holy Spirit, 
For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." 

Numberless expressions of affection and regret, needless 
to say, reached Mrs. Sumner from the friends and fellow- 
workers to whom her resignation was a great and personal 
loss, voicing in different forms the thoughts contained 
in the letter from the Bishop of Winchester: — 

" Farnham Castle, 

July 5th, 1916. 
My dear Mrs. Sumner, 

I shall not trouble you with many words ; but I cannot 
let your memorable reign as President, and Inaugurator, of 
our Diocesan Mothers' Union end without a word of respect 
and gratitude and affection. 






74 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

The life of our Church has been witness — if man may 
judge — of no steadier, more faithful, more strenuous efforts 
to help its service to God and man ; no steadier, and very few 
as steady. 

You have set up a standard before English folk — Church- 
folk especially — of what Home Life should be ; of its potencies 
and resources for good ; of the need and duty that we should 
not only do our several individual duties with regard to it, but 
that it should be a matter of our united effort to witness to its 
ideals and responsibilities and to warn of the dangers to which 
it is exposed. 

And through sunshine and shadow, with spirit unbroken 
by sorrow and loneliness, you have consecrated the gifts of 
speech and influence and energy, with which God endowed 
you, to an unflagging service which has been an astonishment 
and an example to us all. 

The work is now established: I hope that through and 
after the National Mission it may enter upon a new period of 
even wider life and energy. 

Believe me, with our united love and respect, and with 
the prayer that God may give you the Blessing of Peace. 

Yours very sincerely, 

EDW: WINTON: 



CHAPTER VIII 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 

(1917—1921) 

"A little longer yet — patience, beloved ! — 
A little longer yet ere Heaven unroll 
The glory and the brightness and the wonder, 
Eternal and divine, that wait thy soul." 

A YEAR after Mrs. Sumner's retirement from the 
Winchester Presidentship she made one more 
journey to London, to take part in a very simple 
ceremony of very deep significance. This was the opening 
and dedication, on the 6th of June, 1917, of the first 
" Mary Sumner House," to be not merely the central 
office, but the home of the Mothers' Union; a mother 
house, to which all hearts could turn, and where all would 
be remembered in the prayers offered daily in the little 
chapel. 

A simple and homely house it is, in the quiet " Dean's 
Yard " that is part of Westminster Abbey's precincts, 
so that in this first home of its own, as in the Close at 
Winchester, the Mothers' Union has been associated with 
one of the churches most closely linked with the life and 
history of the Nation. This is not the place in which to 
enter into the details of the whole great scheme whereof 
that Westminster house was to be dedicated as the first- 
fruits. Such matters belong to the history of the Society 
rather than of its Foundress, and are there dealt with as 
fully as may be. What no history can record are the 
innumerable gifts and sacrifices, great and small, which 
had gone to make possible the planning and achievement 



76 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER 

of the first Mary Sumner House, under the wise and 
untiring leadership of Mrs. Wilberforce as Central 
President. 

It was a happy coincidence that the friend who had 
been so closely associated with the beginning of Mrs. 
Sumner's public life should be linked, in a very special 
sense, with its close. As Central President of the Mothers' 
Union, Mrs. Wilberforce had been able to keep its 
Foundress in close personal touch with the details of the 
new venture, and there is a singular fitness in the fact 
that to her pen we owe the account, given a little farther 
on, of the actual opening ceremony. 

It was a long time since Mrs. Sumner had been to 
London, but nothing would keep her away from the new 
Home when the 6th of June arrived, and Mrs. Gore Browne 
tells us how thoroughly her mother enjoyed taking 
once more the familiar journey from Winchester. Her 
88 years had not destroyed her keen and ready interest 
in her surroundings. 

" It was wonderful to see her quick notice of the 
changes made by the War, and her pleasure in again 
passing through the well-known stretch of country 
between Winchester and London. For some time past 
her thoughts and prayers had been filled with the thought 
of the Dedication, and she would not have missed it for 
the world. Again and again, as we took our way to 
Westminster, I saw her lips moving in prayer, and could 
even catch a word sometimes of praise or thanksgiving." 
The arrival at the Mary Sumner House was purposely 
made some time before the opening ceremony, so as to 
give time for quiet and rest. The large Annual Meeting, 
which was being held that afternoon at* Chelsea, had 
carried off most of the staff, as well as the members of 
Council, so the house was nearly empty when Mrs. Sumner 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 77 

and her daughter entered it. Mrs. Woodward, who 
received them, suggested a little rest in a quiet room where 
tea was prepared ; but that, the Foundress of the Mothers' 
Union said gently, must not be the first thing she did. 

" I have heard, my dear, that there is a chapel in 
this dear house," she said, with her radiant smile. " I must 
go there, first of all." 

To the chapel, accordingly, she was conducted before 
she would look at anything else, and, walking forward 
alone to the step before the little altar, she knelt there for 
a while in silence, her face uplifted in communion with the 
Lord to Whom her whole heart was going forth in prayer 
and thankfulness. The light of His Presence shone in her 
eyes and in her smile when she rose presently and said 
very quietly, as she left the chapel: 

" I have been praying for every one of my children, 
all over the world." 

THE OPENING CEREMONY. 

Short account by Mrs. Wilberforce. 

" June 6th, 1917, must ever be a memorable day in 
the history of the Mothers' Union. In glorious sunshine 
it began for us under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, at 
the Celebration of the Holy Communion wherein, through 
Him Who gave Himself for us, we touch one another and 
those already within the veil. 

" In the early afternoon we gathered in the Chelsea 
Town Hall for our Annual Meeting, which was followed, 
at 5.30, by the long-looked-for event, the opening and 
dedication of the Mary Sumner House. 

" On our return from the Meeting it was a great joy 
to find that our beloved Foundress had arrived, and she 
became at once the centre of the many friends eager to 
greet and welcome her. Neither the journey from Win 
chester nor the heat of a midsummer day seemed tojiavej 



T8 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

fatigued her, and she entered with all her old enthusiasm 
into the proceedings which had brought us together. It 
gave her unbounded pleasure that the opening ceremony 
was to be performed by Princess Christian, Her Royal 
Highness having graciously consented thus to show her 
interest in the Mothers' Union, whereof she had long been 
the Patron in the London Diocese. To Mrs. Sumner the 
presence of one of Queen Victoria's daughters bore a 
special fitness on that occasion, as linking the new enter 
prise with the revered memory of the great Sovereign 
who had been the Society's first Royal Patron. 

" The Princess arrived with royal punctuality, and 
was received by the Bishop of London, in Convocation 
robes, together with our Foundress, myself as Central 
President, the Vice-Presidents and the Central Secretary 
(Mrs. Maude), the Dean of Westminster and the Hon. 
Evelyn Hubbard. The brief opening ceremony took place 
in the lecture room, where members of the Central Council 
and other guests were assembled. 

" It fell to my lot, as Central President, to begin with 
an address of welcome to Her Royal Highness, in the 
course of which I touched briefly upon some of the chief 
purposes which we trusted to see fulfilled in the Mary 
Sumner House: — 

" The work of the Mothers' Union has hitherto been entirely 
concentrated upon efforts to raise the religious and moral tone 
of the homes of our country ; but now, when the country is 
passing through such a crucial time, and when young children 
must be looked upon as the most valuable asset of the Empire, 
we feel it an imperative duty to utilise our large organisation 
in promoting the physical as well as the spiritual and moral 
welfare of mothers and children. 

" In moving into this House we gain the much required 
additional space for our Central Offices, and shall endeavour to 
combine the three-fold nature of our work by providing 
lectures and instruction on religious and moral education, 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 79 

character training and moral instruction, and other subjects 
relating to the vocation of motherhood in its many aspects. 

" The presence of your Royal Highness to-day is an honour 
which the whole Mothers' Union will deeply appreciate. Not 
in Great Britain alone, but in many countries Overseas, motherly 
hearts will rejoice to know that the daughter of the great 
Queen-Mother, Queen Victoria, has shown this practical 
interest in the Mothers' Union. 

44 . . . . We are much stimulated in our work by the noble 
example, in all appertain ing to home life, set by our King and 
Queen, and we especially cherish the memory of the words 
spoken by His Majesty at the time of his accession to the 
throne — words which contain all that the Mothers' Union 
stands for — 4 The foundations of national glory are set in the 
homes of the people ; they will only remain unshaken while 
the family life of our race and nation is simple, strong and 
pure.'" 

" Princess Christian then performed the simple cere 
mony of declaring the Mary Sumner House open, and the 
Bishop of London proposed a vote of thanks to Her Royal 
Highness, and spoke briefly of the national importance 
of the work of the Mothers' Union. Mrs. Sumner followed 
his words of sympathy and encouragement with her own 
expression of gratitude, and when he called upon the 
* Mother of the Mothers' Union ' to second the vote, she 
stood before us in the erect, simple attitude we knew so 
well, and spoke her heartfelt thanks to the Princess, and 
her own joy in being present on an occasion so full of 
significance to herself and to the work she loved. Her 
voice seemed to ring out with all its old force and beauty 
as she ended in the name of all her fellow- workers : — 

" We pray earnestly that our Heavenly Father will pour 
out His Holy Spirit daily and hourly, for Jesus Christ's sake, 
on all the work and workers in this House, for the spreading of 
our Christian Faith in the hearts and homes of our beloved 
Nation and Empire." 



80 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

"Then followed the short service of Dedication in 
the chapel, closed by a prayer of benediction from the 
Bishop, that God would grant to ourselves and our fellow- 
workers courage, wisdom, strength and love to do His 
will ; and after that the Bishop visited each room in the 
house, blessing its special work and those who were 
carrying it forward. 

" It was indeed an occasion of deep rejoicing and 
humble thanksgiving to Almighty God, and our hearts 
were full when the tune fcr farewells arrived. Dear 
Mrs. Sumner, alert and vigorous as she had been at the 
beginning, took leave of each one of us individually, and 
expressed repeatedly her joy at having been present. 
We accompanied her, with her daughter, to the carriage, 
and stood watching as she drove away, turning to wave 
her loving adieux again and again so long as she was 
in sight." E. W. 

A FEW LETTERS. 

There Mrs. Wilberforce's narrative ends, but I have 
her leave to complete it with a few sentences from a 
letter which she wrote next day to Mrs. Sumner. 

44 .... It just put the coping-stone on everything to have 
you with us yesterday ! and we all so rejoiced both to see and 
hear you. We have had a very happy, useful week, and we 
thanked our Heavenly Father for all His goodness to us, in 
the little chapel this morning. His Banner of Love has been 
and, I trust, ever will be over us. 

" May God ever bless and keep you, our beloved Foundress." 

Mrs. Sumner's letter I give in full: — 

"The Close, Winchester, 
Dearest Mrs. Wilberforce, June 7th, 1917. 

I should like to express my deep thankfulness to God, 
and then to you, my beloved President, and to our fellow- 
members and friends, who have helped hi founding the ' Mary 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 81 

Sumner House,' which has now been so graciously opened by 
H.R.H. Princess Christian and solemnly consecrated to the 
work of the Mothers' Union by the dear Bishop of London. 

May the blessing of God Almighty rest upon it for evermore. 

May the mothers of our nation be impressed with their 
great responsibility. May all their children be dedicated as 
4 Soldiers of Christ ' in Holy Baptism and trained by the 
example of Christian parents in the homes, to the glory of God, 
and to the blessing of our great Empire. 

May I add a word of profound gratitude that my name 
has been allowed to be on a building which represents one of 
the great objects of my life, in which my beloved husband, 
the late Bishop of Guildford, always gave me such constant 
help and inspiration ? I pray earnestly that our Heavenly 
Father will pour out His Holy Spirit, daily and hourly, on all 
the work and workers in this House for the spreading of the 
Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the family life and homes of 
our Empire. 

With renewed thanks to you and to all who are helping us, 
I am your very affectionate, 

MARY E. SUMNER." 

A few passages may fitly be added from Mrs. Sumner's 
letters to other friends: — 

" I was so deeply thankful to be at the Dedication of our 
dear House yesterday ; and it was all so beautifully arranged 
and full of deep feeling, and the dear Bishop's solemn Benedic 
tion will be a lasting Blessing on us all. ... My heart is so on fire 
for a mighty Blessing on this House now given to the service 
of our Heavenly Father, our precious Saviour and the Inspira 
tion of the Holy Ghost." 

" Oh, may God in His Love, crown our new House with 
countless Blessings ! It is very near my heart, and fills me 
with thankfulness. I long to know how yesterday was con 
sidered by many of my dear fellow Mothers' Union members, 
for it was indeed an appropriate time to dedicate it in solemn 
prayer to our Heavenly Father and our Precious Saviour that 
it might be filled with the Divine Spirit ! " 



82 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

44 .... All concerning the new House fills me with profound 
gratitude, and God grant it may ever be carried on in a Spiritual 
Life to the Glory of God, and our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, 
and that every heart working hi this House may be inspired 
by the Holy Spirit, full of love and zeal." 

THE MINISTRY OF PRAYER. 

Very characteristic these letters are, not only of 
Mrs. Sumner's interest in the house bearing her name, 
but also of the burning intensity of the prayers wherein 
that interest found expression. It was the same with 
all parts of the work of the Mothers' Union. The more 
restricted its Foundress came to be in the matter of active 
efforts, the more continuously did she live in and for 
the work of intercession. 

That was her own phrase, used constantly, and with 
literal truth. " I am living in daily and earnest prayer 
about my beloved Mothers' Union," she wrote to one 
friend, and to another: — 

" It is so wonderful to realise how our Mothers' Union is 
growing all over the world, in many countries, in answer to 
constant and earnest prayer ! I live in such earnest prayer 
about it all. . . ." 

The next few passages are taken from different letters 
written by Mrs. Sumner in these latter days, and they 
all reveal the same triumphant faith in the power of 
prayer, and the same untiring zeal in its practice. 

" .... I and a certain number of earnest friends are praying 
daily for our present Government. ... I want to live in prayer 
for them." 

" . . . . We are living in anxious days, and we believe that 
our duty is to live in prayer." 

" .... I am laid up with a severe cold, but I can do many 
things still, with the help of my God. ... It does so cheer me 
to feel your great enthusiasm for our efforts to win the Nation, 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH" 88 

heart and soul, to God. I had the following striking and solemn 
prayer given me on Easter morning : — 

" 4 All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as 
possible for Thee; and every life I touch do Thou by Thy 
Spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer 
I breathe, or the life I live. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. 1 " 

" . . . . May God inspire us ! and let the one great object 
of our Mothers' Union be to wake up conscience in Fathers 
and Mothers and children, in every home, by ceaseless prayer, 
intercession, self-sacrifice, unworldliness and dedication of life 
to Christ our Lord." 

" . . . . With prayer there will be no straining, no morbid 
anxiety. Prayer brings Christ's influence. He knows and 
understands, and, if we pray, He will give the needed patience 
and strength. From prayer we shall derive confidence." 

Prayer was indeed " the fountain of her inspiration 
that lasted on, springing up still in that sunlit upper room 
when the day for speaking was past." 

I quote once more from the Bishop of Southampton's 
memories of Mrs. Sumner,* in which he gives just a glimpse 
of a visit to her in these latter days. 

" She sat in her pleasant drawing room and spoke of her 
own growing limitations in the work she loved. But only for 
a moment. She passed on to the need and wondrous power 
of intercession, and how, resting in that very room, she knew 
what share she could take. She rose to her feet and standing 
in the middle of the floor poured out a rapture of hope and 
enthusiasm on the promises to prayer. 

" So we left her ; the last memory is of one on her feet in 
the sunlight, praising God " 

" CONCERNING GRANDMOTHERS." 
This ministry of prayer, to which Mrs. Sumner gave 
herself so unremittingly in her old age, was the share 
which she felt that all the older members of the Mothers' 

* Winchester Diocesan Chronicle, October, 1921. 



84 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

Union should specially take in its work. She had written 
years ago on this subject, in a paper " Concerning Grand 
mothers," * which it is interesting to compare with her 
own practice. Only a few paragraphs can find space here. 

" We are constantly asked to solve the problem which 
seems to exercise the minds of some of the older members 
in our Society, as to the value and position of grandmothers 
in the national work of the Mothers' Union, and I should like 
to show that their value and influence is strong, definable, 
and all-important to the success of our efforts. . . . 

" . . . . Let no one despise middle age or old age. If it is 
stamped with a reflection of the Divine Life, it has a beauty 
and an influence all its own. The power of the high-minded 
grandmother who is consistent in her faith and practice, and 
who has the courage of her opinions is greater than we can 
conceive. . . . 

44 The Mothers' Union is above all things a Prayer 

Union. It was founded in prayer, initiated with prayer, built 
up in prayer. The forces which are working and moving 
throughout the length and breadth of the Mothers' Union 
are alive through prayer. The daily united supplication rising 
up into the ears of the Almighty Saviour from thousands of 
hearts, in thousands of homes, is the secret of our strength, 
of our marvellous success, for 4 He always wins who sides with 
God.' Therefore prayer is the greatest power, for ' it moves 
the hand that moves the world,' and older women — grand 
mothers — even if they are invalids, are probably helping us 
more than the most brilliant speakers and active workers 
among the younger members, if they strengthen our work 
by prayer. 

* * * * * * 

" If only we would expect great results and answers to 
our prayers, we should win hundreds of hearts and homes 
that now seem impossible, for the days of miracles are not 
over, and who can tell the far-reaching impressions which are 
made by older people, nearing the eternal world calmly, in 

* Mothers in Council, 1903. 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 85 

confidence, faith, peace, and beauty, with the halo upon them 
of a life spent well and wisely, the retrospect of a perfect union 
in married life, the faithful training of children, and of a home 
ruled in wisdom and love. Such a life is an object lesson to 
younger wives and mothers, and may stir them to go and do 
likewise. Special honour should be given to age when it is 
crowned with good works." 

It was this intense belief in the power of prayer, and 
in the vocation of old age to that especial ministry, which 
led Mrs. Sumner to resist with all her might any proposals 
as to a possible " age-limit " for membership in the 
Mothers' Union. To one who brought forward such a 
suggestion, in these later years, she wrote strongly: — 

" I am afraid .... that you have hardly realised the 
double basis of our Mothers' Union — Prayer and Work. The 
grandmothers and great-grandmothers whom you mention 
have more time in their old age to pray for 4 children and 
children's children,' and we have always felt that these prayers 
uphold and strengthen the younger mothers in their anxious 
work of training their little ones, and that they bring untold 
blessing on the whole Society. 

" It would be a fatal weakness to oust these aged members, 
and, speaking from personal knowledge of our members, 
I know how enormously they value the great bond of union 
in prayer. 

" Mothers of all ages are needed to raise the spiritual life 
of the country, and of course our motherhood does not cease 
with age. . . . The grand work of Intercession can be better 
carried out in the quiet of old age than in the rush of youth." 

No one who knew Mrs. Sumner will dream that this 
plea for the ministry of the older mothers meant any 
disregard of the needs, and the value, of the younger ones, 
who were always so near her heart ; but it is of interest, 
in this connexion, to note that the very last leaflet she 
wrote, in 1920,* had for its special object the enlisting of 

* An Appeal to Educated Mothers, 



86 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMMER 

fresh supporters from the ranks of young mothers, for 
the uplift of Christian motherhood. 

44 There is special need for enlisting the interest and help 
of the young mothers of to-day, for they have to meet the 
many new problems both in religious and in social questions, 
and their advice and co-operation is of the greatest use in 
dealing with these difficulties." 

In a letter of about the same date she says : — 
" .... I am striving in prayer to awaken the conscience 
of all young mothers to realise their great responsibility in 
the gift, from Almighty God, of a little immortal soul. . . . 
May God the Father and our Blessed Saviour hear our earnest 
prayers, and pour a mighty spiritual power on all we are 
striving to do for our beloved country." 

THE 90TH BIRTHDAY. 

Mrs. Sumner's 90th birthday was celebrated on 
December 81st, 1918. 

" Such a wonderful birthday ! " as she wrote to a 
friend. " Letters, telegrams and cards of good wishes 
from beloved relations, friends, and kind believers in my 
Mothers' Union. Oh ! I do thank God ! and will you 
pray about the longing so many of us feel, concerning the 
entire conversion of hearts and lives to our Heavenly 
Father and our Precious Saviour .... It will be so 
lovely to meet in Heaven the dear friends who are now 
giving their lives to God ! Pray for me, my dear friend." 

A birthday message arrived from the Queen herself, 
together with a signed photograph of Her Majesty; a 
gracious remembrance, which Mrs. Sumner deeply valued. 
The letters which reached her were from all parts, from 
individual friends and from the Dioceses. From the 
Winchester Diocesan Council of the Mothers' Union came 
a specially personal expression of gratitude for " the 
great work you have done for the mothers of the world. 






"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 87 

We are proud to know that our Mothers' Union had its 
inception in this Diocese." 

From the Mary Sumner House the Central President 
wrote : — 

" How good God has been in sparing you to us through 
these many years, to be such an inspiration to lead us 
higher ! We thank Him, too, for making your eventide 
so full of light." 

THE LAST MEETING. 

It was during the summer of 1919 that Mrs. Sumner 
addressed her last meeting. She was staying at Botley 
with her daughter, Mrs. Gore Browne, who invited the 
neighbouring members of the Mothers' Union to tea in 
her garden, after which Mrs. Sumner had promised to 
speak to them. 

She prepared beforehand, in her usual fashion, by a 
quiet hour of prayer, and when tea-time came she went 
among the guests, speaking individually to as many as 
she could, and at the close gave one of her earnest, direct 
addresses to them all together, as they sat in the garden. 
The fact of speaking in the open air did not trouble her, 
in spite of her 90 years, and every word could be hearcl 
easily by all present. 

THE NEW CENTRAL PRESIDENT. 

A year later Mrs. Sumner was again staying with her 
daughter when she received a visit from Mrs. Hubert 
Barclay on the appointment of the latter to be Central 
President of the Mothers' Union when Mrs. Wilberforce 
found herself obliged to lay down the task. Of that 
visit Mrs. Barclay herself wrote a short account, which 
fittingly completes the story of Mrs. Sumner's life-work.* 

* Reprinted from the Workers' Paper, September, 1921, 



88 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

"Last summer, after having been appointed Central 
President, I went to see her. She was not at the moment at 
her beautiful home under the shadow of Winchester Cathedral, 
but staying with her daughter at Botley, in Hampshire. She 
welcomed me most sweetly, and at once asked me many 
questions about the Mothers' Union. The whole note of her 
talk struck me as being so loving, as though her heart was 
overflowing with love for all the mothers, and she was keenly 
interested in every detail of the work. She spoke as one who 
knew and understood the difficulties of a mother's life, and 
sympathized with every part of it. Her mind was wonderfully 
clear and her beautiful face alight with keenness and emotion. 
She repeated herself somewhat, as is the way of those whose 
earthly life has been prolonged, and one sentence which she 
repeated over and over again was a message — a personal 
message to the mothers she loved so well. 

" * Tell them ' — she said it earnestly over and over again — 
* tell them that it is the first seven years of a child's life that 
are so important. Tell them it is the first seven years.' She 
saw so clearly that those are the years in which the seed is 
sown in the fertile garden of a child's mind for good or ill, to 
bring forth either wheat or tares. 

" When we had talked for some time her daughter thought 
fully suggested I should rest after my journey, and Mrs. Sumner 
at once urged me to do so, adding, 'And while you are gone 
I shall just sit and pray.' And so I left her engaged in holding 
up the Mothers' Union and every member of it — its activities, 
its difficulties, and its hopes before the Throne of Grace. 

" That was her constant occupation. 

*' The day will always remain in my memory, and I recall 
so well how, during the train journey back to London, I thought 
it all over. It is very seldom that any woman lives to see a 
work she has been instrumental in starting go forward and 
grow into a work of such magnitude as it was granted to Mrs. 
Sumner to see in the Mothers' Union and its steady growth 
from such a small beginning until it became as it is now, a 
world-wide organization of national importance, and I asked 
myself, ' How was it ? ' 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH" 89 

" I am certain the answer is this — How wonderfully God 
can and does use a wholly consecrated Hie. A life which knew 
one purpose, and one purpose only, namely, to do His will — 
to be used by Him — emptied of self and self-seeking to live 
for Christ, by' Christ, and through Christ. Her heart was filled 
with love for her Master, and by the power of His Holy Spirit 
she radiated love — God's love — on all those with whom she 
came in contact." 

THE JOURNEY'S END. 

Mrs. Barclay's visit took place in the summer of 1920, 
and soon afterwards Mrs. Sumner was home again under 
the shadow of her beloved Cathedral, rejoicing in its services 
so long as she could share in them. As she wrote to a 
friend at Christmas -time : — 

" I am so enjoying my Cathedral Services, and the 
dear family around me." 

The love of her children, always so intensely precious 
to her, came to be more than ever her comfort and delight 
as the passing months increased the burden of her weak 
ness. Her letters continually expressed the thankfulness 
she felt in the exceeding happiness of having " my beloved 
son and his wife," or " my dearest Loulie " with her. 
It was a. great grief both to herself and to Lady Hey wood, 
her elder daughter, that the failing health of the latter 
made it impossible for her to be much with her mother 
during these last days. 

The affection of other relatives, and of the many 
friends who gathered round her, Mrs. Sumner also prized 
with all her old eagerness of appreciation, and she would 
often speak of the debt cf gratitude which she owed to the 
members of her household. All of them had lived with 
her for very many years, and they loved to serve her with 
care and devotion that she appreciated and valued to the 
full. The evening shadows gathering round that quiet 
home could not quench the light that glowed within it. 



90 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

Never, even in its brightest days, had it been more truly 
a " home of peace and love " than through those months 
of deepening silence, when all who lived in the house, or 
came to it, found happiness in tender ministry to her who 
had ministered so freely and so lovingly to others all 
her life. 

Mrs. Sumner's wonderful vitality enabled her to carry 
on the ordinary routine of life until the summer of 1921. 
She took the most intense interest in all the arrangements 
for the Mothers' Union Conference held in Chester early 
in June, and was kept closely in touch with the details 
of these by Mrs. W. H. Johnson, the Diocesan President 
for Chester. The last two letters penned by her hand 
related to the Conference, and to her constant prayers 
for God's blessing upon it. To Mrs. Johnson she wrote 
just beforehand, on May 30th: — 

44 .... I shall indeed pray for a great blessing on all the 

meetings which will be held May God grant a great blessing 

on all the efforts that are being made to help forward the 
Christian life of our land. 

44 1 am so glad there is to be a joint meeting for husbands 
and wives; we do so want to get the help of husbands and 
fathers." 

To Mrs. Hubert Barclay, as Central President, she 
wrote, on June 9th: — 

44 1 am delighted to get the telegram with the kind messages 
from the Council and Mass Meeting. I do indeed trust that 
every blessing has been given to the great gathering at Chester, 
and that a great increase in the Mothers' Union work will be 
the result. 

44 How I wish I could have been with you all during this 
week ! " 

She had been with us, we knew well, every day in 
thought and prayer, and when the week was over she made 
her offering of thanksgiving, on beliajf of the whole 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH " 91 

Mothers' Union, on Sunday in the Cathedral. That was 
the last time she entered its doors in life, and it was an 
occasion full of joy for her, accompanied as she was by 
her son and one daughter and other dear ones, and with 
her heart full of rejoicing in the great things God was 
accomplishing in and through her " dear daughters 
throughout the world." 

Of the eight weeks that followed Mrs. Gore Browne 
has told all that the outside world can ask to know, in 
a brief reminiscence from which I have her leave to quote. 

" As long as possible my mother used to get up and be 
dressed, and come to the drawing room in the course of 
the morning, and I would read aloud to her, from the 
Bible, very often, or from some favourite book on the 
subjects nearest to her heart. Sometimes she would go 
to the piano, and she still played so beautifully, but only 
by heart, the same things over and over again, but very 
pretty one?, and she would improvise on them. 

" Often she liked us to have prayers together, and 
would ask for our Mothers' Union prayer, and sometimes 
she would sit quietly praying in her arm-chair. She 
would lift up her hands very often in an attitude of 
supplication, and now and then held them out, as though 
presenting something to God. 

" ' What would you like ? ' I used to ask her some 
times, and the answer always was, ' Prayer ! prayer ! ' 
She constantly repeated the lines — 

4 Jesu, my Lord, I Thee adore, 
O make me love Thee more and more ! ' 

She always liked our hymn at prayers in the evening to 
have something about Jesus Christ in it. 

" She loved walking in the garden, as long as it was 
possible, with me, or with her devoted maid, enjoying 
her flowers and talking to the gardener, who, like every 



92 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

one else about her, was always anxious for the chance of 
serving her in any way. 

" In the evenings she would get me to play or sing to 
her, or she would go herself to the piano, and play the 
familiar tune of ' Abide with me,' singing to herself the 

verse, 4 Hold Thou Thy Cross ' She seemed to 

find such joy and comfort in it. 

*' She never went to the Cathedral again after Sunday, 
June 12th. On the Tuesday following she was dressed 
to go to the midday Celebration, as usual, but was not 
well enough to do so, and after that Canon Vaughan 
used to come and give her private Celebrations. This 
was her great comfort. 

" When most people would have been staying in bed, 
or just moving to an arm-chair, my mother kept on 
getting up after breakfast, and dressing. Towards the 
end, however, the great heat tried her greatly. For 
some time she used to beg the doctor to make her strong 
and well, for 4 1 want to begin to work again,' she said ; 
but as weakness and breathlessness increased, she begged 
us to pray that she might die." 

So the hot days of July passed by in the quiet house, 
and early in August the end was drawing near. 

" On the morning of Tuesday, August 9th, we had 
thought the end was coming, when, as we stood round 
her, suddenly her eyes opened. A lovely smile lit up 
her face, and she looked radiantly out towards the window, 
while her eyes simply seemed to flash. This lasted about 
a minute, and then she closed her eyes, and drooped her 
head, but in another little space the same thing happened 
again. 

" She had four or five of these wonderful visions, and 
we who watched her longed to know what it was that 
she was allowed to see, Did her eyes indeed ' behold the 



"THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH" 93 

King in His beauty ? ' or was some glimpse vouchsafed 
to her of those whom she had ' loved long since, and lost 
awhile ? ' We could not tell, and her dear voice was 
silenced; only we knew, by that wonderful light on her 
countenance, that her visions filled her with the intensest 
joy. Just once again her lips moved, and we caught the 
whispered words, ' Abide — abide with me ! ' 

" After that she fell into a deep unconsciousness, from 
which she only rallied once, for a second, when I told her 
that Canon Vaughan had come to pray with her. She 
just laid her hand on his arm to show how glad she was 

" All through the next day we watched and prayed 
beside her, but she could no longer give any sign of re 
sponse. When Thursday morning came, she opened her 
eyes for a second, just once more. That was at about 
8 o'clock, and then the end came very soon. I held her 
dear hand in mine, and felt the pulse growing weaker 
and weaker, as her breathing grew quiet and faint. And 
so, very gently, and in perfect peace, she passed to her 
eternal rest, and we thanked God for giving her the 
victory." 



CHAPTER IX 



AFTER THE HARVEST 

•' . . . . Others shall 

Take patience, labour, to their heart and hand 
From thy hand, and thy heart, and thy brave cheer, 
And God's grace fructify through thee to all." 

E. B. BROWNING. 

SO the long life of loving service was ended, and the 
joyous spirit entered into the perfected bliss for 
which she had waited, in the nearer Presence of the 
Lord she loved. The thought of her exultant joy filled 
the hearts even of her nearest and dearest, piercing their 
sorrow as the sun's radiance shines from behind the 
clouds. 

The old red house had grown suddenly empty and 
desolate, yet from the hushed stillness that enwrapped it 
there went up thanksgivings none the less heartfelt for 
being blent with tears. And those thanksgivings were 
echoed in ever-widening circles from thousands upon 
thousands of hearts in the world outside. Seldom, surely, 
can there have been a death more widely recognised as 
the triumphant entrance into rest and joy well won. 

Into fellowship, too ; the new and glorious fellowship 
she had looked and longed for, with dear ones gone on 
before, as also with the souls she had been privileged to 
comfort, help and cheer. The vast assembly gathered in 
the Cathedral, on August 15th,* for a last farewell was 
as the shadowed counterpart of the rejoicing company 

* An account of the funeral is given in Appendix I. 



AFTER THE HARVEST 95 

welcoming her into "that new life where partings are 
no more." As one who was present wrote of it : — 

" The funeral was very wonderful. The whole of England 
seemed to acknowledge and rejoice in what she had done, 
and in the Power in which she had done it. And also one could 
not but feel the certainty of the rejoicing for her, and with her, 
on the other side. Every one present must have felt the 
tremendous possibilities of their human life when filled and 
transcended by the life of the Spirit." 

A letter written to Mrs. Sumner in her life-time voices 
this same thought, which was present in so many hearts 
at that service of thanksgiving and farewell : — 

" I have always loved the thought that possibly, when 
we are called hence, those whom we have helped on earth may 
be allowed to take us before the Throne, and say gladly, 4 We 
are here because of her.' If such a thing can be, I believe that 
you will be surrounded by an almost countless crowd of those 
who in this life have thanked God for having granted you the 
inspiration, the zeal and the courage for your glorious work in 
giving us the Mothers' Union." 

The words call to mind a passage in one of Mrs. 
Sumner's own leaflets* wherein she pictures the joy await 
ing the mother who in her earthly home has striven to 
make Christ's Presence a living power. To such a mother 
she says, in words that might have been spoken to 
herself:— 

" Your children will rise up and call you blessed. The 
Lord Jesus will live in your heart, in your home. He will bless 
your husband and your children, and when this short life is 
over you will reap a great and everlasting reward. The King 
of kings will take away the cross of all your earthly troubles, 
and place a crown of victory on your head. He will wipe away 
all tears from your eyes. He will say, ' Well done, good and 
faithful servant ; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord ! ' 

* " An Appeal to Mothers." 



96 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 

" Yet a little while, and your children will follow you through 
the Golden Gates into the Heavenly City. You will meet all 
gloriously in your Saviour's presence, to be with Him for ever 
more. You will bow your head before the Throne and say, 
' Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.' " 

Such was the vision of motherhood which the Foundress 
of the Mothers' Union had kept before her throughout 
her married life, and it was the hope wherein her many 
thousand " children in the Lord " could rejoice, for 
her, after her death. As one Diocesan President wrote: 

" For her — with all that it means of reunion with her best- 
beloved, and to see Him Whose service she has so loved — 
for her, we can only thank God, from the very depths of our 
hearts. And for ourselves, I believe, one and all, we should 
say, we may have made many failures in our duties to both 
husband and children, but we should never have attained to 
the measure of joy and victory that God has vouchsafed to us, 
but for our beloved Mrs. Sumner, her teaching, her example 
and wonderful inspiration." 

The same note of thankfulness sounds in Archdeacon 
Fearon's letter : — 

" She has left a mark on the life of our English homes, 
and indeed on the life of the Church, which will never be for 
gotten. It is just fifty-three years since first I met her at 
Farnham Castle, and ever since she has been a wonderfully 
kind, good friend to me, as she has been to all who knew her, 
and to thousands who did not. And she has left us all an 
example and a help, for which we may with full heart thank 
God." 

From the depths of full hearts the members of the 
Mothers' Union have indeed joined in true thanksgiving. 
As an Enrolling Member wrote on behalf of her whole 
Branch, in words that express what many other letters 
also said : — 

" The name of our Foundress will ever be remembered 
with reverence and great thankfulness. The beauty of her 



AFTER THE HARVEST 97 

life should inspire us to fulfil in ourselves, and in our Branches, 
all that she worked and pleaded for in the long years of her 
ministry at home and in far lands." 

It is a temptation to go on quoting from the many 
letters of love and recognition which Mrs. Sumner's death 
drew from all classes of society, and from all parts of the 
world. The Queen herself sent a personal telegram to 
Mrs. Sumner's family, " to express to you Her Majesty's 
great regret at hearing of your sad loss, and Her Majesty's 
deep sympathy in your sorrow, which will be shared by 
many." From Princess Beatrice also came an expression 
of sympathy, and Her Royal Highness was represented 
at the funeral. Diocesan Presidents, Presiding and 
Enrolling Members, in all parts, sent personal letters and 
corporate expressions of love and remembrance. Services 
of thanksgiving and commemoration were held in all 
parts of England; indeed, one might truly say, in all 
parts of the world, so widespread was the desire to join 
in doing honour to a life unreservedly offered and gloriously 
used in God's service. 

It would be easy to linger over the tributes to that 
beloved memory, but it would mean necessarily much 
repetition of the self-same thoughts, which may be well 
summed up in the concluding sentences of the message 
sent by the Scottish Mothers' Union : — 

" We know how much we owed, in the early beginnings of 
our Scottish Union, to Mrs. Sumner's wise and sympathetic 
counsels, and those who had the privilege of knowing her 
during her tour in this country can never forget the charm of 
her gracious personality, and the inspiration of her God-given 
enthusiasm. 

*' God give her peace, and grant her hereafter to see the 
fruit of her labours." 



98 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 



AFTER THE HARVEST. 

So the joy of harvest goes up to heaven, and thanks 
givings for a richly fruitful life are offered in abundance, 
and after that — what next ? That is the question left 
with those to whom Mary Sumner's life and work are 
more than a matter for passing interest, admiration, or 
even gratitude. In the words which Canon Vaughan 
spoke of her from the pulpit in Winchester Cathedral : — 

" Her real memorial will be found, not so much in the 
marble monument covering her remains ; not so much in the 
twin buttresses on the south side of the Cathedral, which 
commemorate her work — not so much in the Mary Sumner 
House at Westminster, established in her honour — as it will be 
found in the Society that she founded, and in the grateful 
hearts of thousands and tens of thousands of human beings, 
* in lives made brighter by her presence.' " 

" . . . . Mrs. Sumner was a Christian in the true meaning 
of the word, i.e., one devoted to Christ. She lived in her Master's 
presence. She was for ever holding communication with 
Him. . . . 

" The prayer of Frances Ridley Havergal was the prayer 
of Mary Elizabeth Sumner: — 

" Take my life, and let it be 
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; 
Take my moments, and my days, 
Let them flow in ceaseless praise. 
Take my hands, and let them be 
Swift and 4 beautiful ' for Thee. 

" Take my voice, and let me sing 
Always, only, for my King. 
Take my love; my Lord I pour 
At Thy feet its treasure-store. 
Take myself, and I will be 
Ever, only, all for Thee," 



AFTER THE HARVEST 99 

" . . . . She, being dead, yet speaketh. And if she could 
speak to us, in human language, she would, I think, call upon 
us, men and women alike, to dedicate our lives to Him Who 
is perfect Purity, and perfect Love." 

After the harvest comes the new life that springs 
from it. The golden grain is in-gathered, not merely to 
be stored in safety, but to be made into new life-force to 
give strength to those that shall sow and reap in days 
to come. The fruits of Mrs. Sumner's labours are ours 
to use as the seed of fresh ventures of faith in her own 
great enterprise of winning for God the nation's homes. 
In new ways, often, as new challenges confront us, and 
new problems have to be dealt with, and fresh dangers 
faced; yet with the one steadfast purpose that she set 
before us, and in the one strength that never changes, 
and can never fail. For it is the strength of a living 
faith in the love of God, brought home to our hearts by the 
power of the Holy Spirit, in the personal Presence of 
Jesus Christ our Lord, 



100 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 



APPENDIX I 



MRS. SUMNER'S FUNERAL, AUGUST 15TH, 1921. 
(From an account given in the " Hampshire Chronicle") 

THE funeral of Mrs. Sumner on Monday brought about a spectacle 
such as, it might be claimed, has not been equalled in Winchester 
on a similar occasion within living memory, a congregation of fully 
4000 assembling at the Cathedral to testify their affectionate respect 
for one whose life was devoted to so worthy a cause as that of up 
lifting and bringing happiness to the home, both on its material and 
spiritual side. Not only was the vast nave promptly filled, in the 
aisles as well as its central portion, by people, very few of whom 
were not wearing some outward symbol of mourning, but it became 
necessary to occupy the few remaining seats in the choir, which 
for a while had been reserved. 

The following message had been telegraphed to Mrs. Gore Browne* 
at the Close : — " A command by the Queen to express to you Her 
Majesty's great regret at hearing of your sad loss and Her Majesty's 
deep sympathy in your sorrow, which will be shared by so many. — 
LADY-IN-WAITING." 

Those forming the congregation came from all parts, and were 
very widely representative. In addition to a large number of relatives 
and personal friends, and clergy from all parts of the Diocese, there 
were, of course, literally thousands of members of the Mothers' 
Union, representing Branches and Dioceses far and near. Mrs. Hubert 
Barclay (Central President) represented the whole Society; 
Mrs. Ernest Wilberforce (Vice-President, formerly Central President 
of the M.U.) represented H.R.H. Princess Beatrice, Patron of the 
Mothers' Union in the Isle of Wight. The Central Council of the Society, 
and the Staff of the Mary Sumner House, were also represented. 

Mrs. Sumner 's house in the Close was the one on the south-east 
side (through the archway) of the Cathedral, and it was on the 

* Lady Heywood, Mrs. Sumner's elder daughter, was unable to 
take any part in her mother's funeral, owing to her own grave illness. 
She died on August 18th. 



APPENDIX I 101 

gravelled space in front that the funeral procession was formed. 
The body was borne on a wheeled bier. The coffin, of unpolished 
English oak, with raised full-length Latin cross, had a plate inscribed : 

Rest in the Lord. 

MARY ELIZABETH SUMNEB, 

Died August llth, 1921, 

Aged 92 years. 

A lovely floral cross from her children rested on the coffin — the 
other wreaths, crosses, and flowers had been taken into the Cathedral, 
where they were placed in front of and near the choir stalls. 

There is little to record of the actual service beyond saying that 
it was dignified in its simplicity, and outstanding was the hushed 
and reverent demeanour of the vast concourse of people. The opening 
sentences were said by Canon Vaughan and then the robed clergy 
led the procession to the choir, an impressive feature being the 
great number of family and personal mourners walking behind the 
body, which, from the south door to the choir, was borne on the 
shoulders of men. The ninetieth Psalm was chanted, and the hymns 
were " Let saints on earth " and " How bright those glorious spirits 
shine ! " the congregation taking full opportunity of joining in the 
singing. The Dean read the appointed lesson and the prayers were 
taken by Canon Braithwaite. The interment was in what is known 
as the Water Close — the piece of ground adjoining the Cathedral 
on its south-east side and overlooked by the windows of what was 
Bishop and Mrs. Sumner's residence. The procession to the grave 
side was in the same order and by the same way, the organist playing 
Chopin's " Funeral March " as the body was borne out. The enclosed 
ground is comparatively small and it was only possible to 
accommodate those actually in the procession, but the pathway 
leading through to Colebrook Street was lined with people. The 
concluding portion of the service — generally spoken of as the com 
mittal — was wholly taken by the Bishop of Winchester, who himself 
held the pastoral staff as he said the final Benediction. 

As would be expected, the wreaths and crosses from Mothers' 
Union members in Dioceses and Branches were very numerous, and 
the effect produced was extremely beautiful. 

After the funeral a muffled peal (whole pull and stand) was 
rung on the Cathedral bells, the tenor bell giving the years of 
Mrs. Sumner's life. 



102 MEMOIR OF MRS. SUMNER 



APPENDIX II 



MRS. SUMNER'S WRITINGS 

MRS. SUMNER'S largest works are the two books, "Our Holiday in 
the East," and " Memoir of Bishop Sumner." Her lesser writings 
were very numerous, and include many magazine articles and leaflets 
relating to the work of the Mothers' Union, among which the 
following are some of the most important. (They are not all in 
print.) 

What is the Mothers' Union ? 

Speakers for the Mothers' Union. 

An Appeal to Educated Mothers. 

Home Training. 

Nursery Training. 

Union is Strength. 

To a Mother after the Baptism of her Child. 

Home Life. 

Appeal to Husbands and Fathers. 

Holy Marriage. 

Divorce : A National Danger. 

A Welcome to a Bride and Bridegroom. 

A Mother's Greatest Duty. 

The Keystone. 

Responsibility of Parents. 

A Few Words to Mothers of Little Children. 

God's Call to Mothers. 

Influence of Modern Society on Sunday in the Home. 

Congratulations to a Mother on the Birth of her Child. 

A Grave Peril. 



PART II 

A SHORT HISTORY OF 
THE MOTHERS' UNION 



INTRODUCTION 



T AM anxious to express our great gratitude to Lady 
•*- Horatia Erskine both for having found time to put 
together the valuable record from which this short 
History of the Mothers' Union has been compiled and 
also for so generously allowing us to make this use of 
her work. 

Lady Horatia was good enough to hand over her 
manuscript to me, as Central President, some eighteen 
months ago, and it was only owing to the immense 
difficulties created by the War that it was not immediately 
published. 

The delay, however, has not been without its 
advantages, for it is singularly appropriate that selections 
from this important record of the growth and development 
of the Mothers' Union should appear with the Memoir 
of its Foundress and first Central President. 

From the very outset Lady Horatia Erskine was 
Mrs. Sumner's loyal friend and trusted adviser and 
together they laid the sure foundations of our great 
Society as it now stands. 

EMILY WILBERFORCE. 
November, 1921. 



FOREWORD 



IT is hoped that the following short " History of the 
Mothers' Union " — though much compressed from 
the original record written by me — may afford some 
general information and stir up the interest of present- 
day workers and members, many of whom have known 
nothing of its start beyond the fact that Mrs. Sumner 
was its Foundress. 

The framing of the Constitution and the subsequent 
Incorporation of the Mothers' Union are land-marks in 
its history which should be familiar to all its workers, 
because the world-wide development of the Society in 
later years is directly due to the careful and effective 
organisation which was carried through in earlier days 
with so much patient effort. The prayers which were 
offered up for years were, we now know, both heard and 
answered. 

Mrs. Sumner has left us in the Mothers' Union both 
a legacy and a trust. The former is her vision of all 
Motherhood pledged to the service of our Lord Jesus 
Christ; the latter, the obligation that rests upon each 
successive generation of Christian Mothers to bring the 
vision nearer to earth, and so to hasten the coming of 
Christ's Kingdom. 

HORATIA E. ERSKINE, 

Life Vice-President. 
November, 1921. 



CHAPTER I 



1892—1910. 

Central President : 
MRS. SUMNER. 

THIS short account of the growth and development 
of the Mothers' Union as an organised Society 
within the Church of England will begin with the 
events which led to its Centralisation at Westminster 
in 1896. 

As has already been narrated in the first part of this 
book, the Mothers' Union was given organisation in 
Winchester Diocese shortly after Mrs. Sumner's address 
to women at the Church Congress held at Portsmouth in 
1885. Very rapidly other dioceses followed the lead given 
by Winchester and they generally accepted the Winchester 
organisation, though in time various differences of adminis 
tration led to inevitable difficulties and confusion. Mrs. 
Sumner was appealed to for advice from all quarters, 
until it became quite impossible for her to deal single- 
handed with all the problems and correspondence that 
arose. 

1892. 

In 1892 it was found that the Mothers' Union was 
working in twenty-eight dioceses and that it had 1550 
branches and over 60,000 members, but so little cohesion 
existed between the diocesan organisations that a recog 
nised Central organisation with a President, Council and 
Secretary became a matter of urgent necessity. 



108 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

It was no easy matter to bring co-ordination into a 
society which had rapidly developed on lines of great 
elasticity, and it took some four years of unceasing effort 
on the part of certain leaders in the Mothers' Union to 
form the Central Council, and to frame for the whole 
Union a sound constitution which should define its 
Objects and regulate its methods of organisation. 

The first step was taken by the newly constituted 
London Diocesan Council from which body, in 1892, an 
invitation was sent to Mrs. Sumner to summon a Con 
ference in the Church House, Westminster, to consider 
the formation of a Centre. The one point then gained 
was the decision that an Annual Conference should be 
held in London, to form a meeting-point for all repre 
sentatives of dioceses, to give opportunity for hearing 
their opinions and to be the means of securing some better 
methods of cohesion in the work. In this year, 1892, 
many of the Bishops consented to become Patrons of the 
Mothers' Union. 

1893—1896. 

In March 1893 a further step was taken, and all the 
existing Diocesan Presidents of the Mothers' Union met 
in London and resolved themselves into a COMMITTEE 
OF PRESIDENTS, the embryo of the future Central Council. 
The main duty of this Committee was to make arrange 
ments for the Annual Conference. In 1894 the Com 
mittee of Presidents decided to have a scheme prepared 
for Centralisation, and at last, in 1896, the much desired 
object was attained and a Central Council of the Mothers' 
Union was formed. Its first duty was to pass a 
Constitution which had been most carefully prepared 
and to elect its Central President. It need hardly be 
said that Mrs. Sumner, Foundress of the Mothers' Union, 
was unanimously chosen. Mrs. Matthew was appointed 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 109 

Central Secretary and a locker was hired for her work at 
the Church House, Westminster. 

From this humble beginning sprang the present 
Central Offices at 8, Dean's Yard, Westminster, with 
their Chapel, Library and Lecture Room. The first Council 
Meeting also gave its recognition to the title " The 
Mothers' Union," agreed to the wording of the Three 
Objects, and appointed and defined the duties of its 
Executive Committee. 

1897. 

Difficulties soon had to be faced and dealt with by 
the new Governing Body. At its second meeting strong 
protests were made by the Scottish Presidents, and by 
the Mothers' Union in New Zealand, against the Clause 
in the Constitution which laid down that "All official 
workers must be members of the Church of England or 
Ireland." After long discussion it was decided to add in 
brackets to the Clause, " This rule does not apply to 
Scotland or the Colonies." This addition became known 
as " The Bracket," and there will be reason to refer to it 
again later on. 

It was at this second Council Meeting that the Feast 
of the Annunciation, March 25th, was appointed as the 
Annual Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for the Mothers' 
Union, and all branches were asked to observe it as far 
as possible. 

In the same year Her Majesty Queen Victoria graciously 
granted her Patronage to the Mothers' Union, and was 
pleased to accept a congratulatory address from the 
Central Council on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. 
Two years later their Royal Highnesses the Princess of 
Wales (Queen Alexandra) and the Duchess of York 
(Queen Mary) also became Royal Patrons. 



110 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

1898. 

In 1898 Miss Charlotte Yonge and Mrs. (afterwards 
Lady) Jenkyns were made members of the Central Council 
in recognition of their work as the respective Editors of 
Mothers in Council and the Mothers 1 Union Journal. 
The Journal, an excellent quarterly paper for Mothers' 
Union members, had been started by Mrs. Jenkyns in 
1888, and in 1891 Miss Yonge became the first Editor 
of Mothers in Council, also a quarterly magazine, specially 
intended for mothers of leisure and education. 

1899—1901. 

In 1899 the first Mothers' Union Almanac was pub 
lished. It met with instant success and 20,000 copies 
were quickly sold. It was in this year that a small room 
on the ground floor at the Church House was taken by 
the Mothers' Union as a Central Office — a great advance 
upon the locker in the basement of the building ! 

The year 1900 is marked by the first of the ^Annual 
Services at St. Paul's Cathedral which have been held 
there in almost unbroken succession ever since. The 
years of exception are : 1913, when the Conference Week 
proceedings were held in York; 1920, when a Consecra 
tion of Bishops in St. Paul's necessitated a change of 
arrangements and the migration of the Mothers' Union 
to St. Margaret's, Westminster; and 1921, when an 
invitation from the Diocese of Chester was accepted. 

In 1901, the year of national mourning, the Central 
Council of the Mothers' Union sent, on behalf of all the 
members, an expression of their sorrow and sympathy 
to the Royal Family on the death of Queen Victoria, 
and a beautiful wreath to her funeral. In memory of 
the Great Queen members of the Mothers' Union also 
subscribed largely to the National Memorial and contri 
buted £1270 to the Queen Victoria Nurses' Fund. 



THE MOTHERS* UNION 111 

During this year the Mothers' Union sustained a great 
loss in the death of Miss Charlotte Yonge, who, as well 
as being the Editor of its magazine, Mothers in Council, 
had been one of its earliest Associates and best friends. 
Bishop Sumner, by special request, then accepted 
responsibility for Mothers in Council and continued to 
be its Editor until 1908. 

1902. 

The year 1902 saw the starting of a Lending Library 
in the Central Office — a somewhat modest beginning from 
which has developed the large and valuable library of 
many thousand volumes which members and friends of 
the Mothers' Union can use and enjoy at the present time. 

A small but significant change was made this year in 
the wording of the Mothers' Union "Second Object," 
" Empire " being substituted for " England." This leads 
to a short digression with reference to the rapid spread 
of the Mothers' Union Overseas after its Centralisation 
in 1896. Canada (London, Ontario) claims the first 
Overseas branch of the Mothers' Union in 1888, Christ - 
church, New Zealand, running it very close. But not 
until the Society had Central organisation did the work 
abroad spread widely on diocesan lines. At the time 
when this history is being compiled, the Mothers' Union 
Overseas forms a part of the organisation of eighty dioceses, 
has some 800 branches and 10,000 members. 

The Mothers' Union is now even wider than the British 
Empire itself; many missionary dioceses have branches 
in countries outside our King's dominions, such as China, 
Japan, Persia, Madagascar, etc. 

1903. 

In 1903 the Central Council of the Mothers' Union 
pledged itself to resist all attacks made upon the Marriage 



112 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

Laws of this country and entered upon a line of action 
which has had no small effect upon our national life. 
During the previous year, 1902, a " Protest " had been 
made by the Mothers' Union, in connection with other 
Women's Societies, against the Deceased Wife's Sister 
Bill. In December, 1903, the Dowager Countess of 
Chichester was elected as a member of the Central Council, 
an event which also influenced very strongly the direction 
of Mothers' Union activities for several years to come. 

A Finance Committee was at this time appointed by 
the Council, and the Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard became 
the first Central Treasurer. The need of a reliable source 
of income became felt as the obligations of the Mothers' 
Union increased, but although three schemes for supplying 
a settled income were discussed, none were entirely 
approved and each in turn was abandoned. The finances 
of the Union remained dependent upon the profits on the 
sales of its literature and the voluntary contributions of 
those who were then known as " Subscribing Members." 

1904—1907. 

The year 1904 was one of great expansion in Church 
work in South Africa, and, in connection with the Mission 
of Help from England, the Mothers' Union sent out 
Mrs. Arthur Philip as a Deputation Speaker. 

Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard, to the regret of every member 
of the Council, felt obliged to resign her post as Treasurer 
in 1905 and was succeeded by Mr. John Hill. 

During this year, with the help of Mrs. Russell, the 
Mothers' Union began to work definitely among Maternity 
and District Nurses and rules for their enrolment in the 
Mothers' Union were drawn up. 

The literature of the Mothers' Union began at this 
time to receive greater consideration from the Centra] 
Council, as the demand for Mothers' Union publications 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 118 

had caused them to become a valuable aid to the work 
of the Society as well as a considerable financial asset. 

It followed, therefore, that in 1906 a Literature Com 
mittee was appointed by the Central Council with Lady 
Horatia Erskine as the Chairman. It immediately began 
to deal with many important matters and acted in 1907 
in co-operation with the Bishop of London's Council for 
the Home Training of Children in Religion, which eventu 
ally resulted in the Mothers' Union establishing a Religious 
Education Scheme and Book Supply of its own. The 
Literature Committee on its appointment took charge 
of the Library and of all the Mothers' Union publications. 
It has now (1921) three Sub-Committees to deal with 
different branches of its work — (1) the Publications, 
(2) the Library and Book Supply, and (3) Education 
Committees, each Sub-Committee having its own ap 
pointed Chairman. 

In 1907 Mrs. Halliday was sent by the Central Council 
on a tour to Australia and New Zealand, which lasted 
several months and was the means of establishing the 
Mothers' Union in many new dioceses. Mrs. Halliday 
also visited Ceylon. 

1908. 

In 1908, at the invitation of the Congress of the 
American Church, Mrs. Allen Whitworth visited the 
United States and attended the Congress as a Mothers' 
Union Deputation Speaker. 

Information came this year from Australia that certain 
dioceses had altered the wording on Members' Cards to 
suit the views of Baptists. Mrs. Sumner, as Central 
President, wrote firmly to protest, and to insist that the 
Mothers' Union Card must be accepted as it stood, or 
not at all. Mrs. Sumner's insistence upon infant baptism 
as the Sacrament of entry into Christ's Church, and upon 



114 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

Holy Communion as the greatest privilege of the Christian 
life, was the most marked feature of her teaching. From 
the first certain Nonconformist applicants could be 
accepted as members in the Mothers' Union, should they 
desire to join, but the Sacrament of Baptism was always 
made the first condition of membership — the Holy Com 
munion as the highest " means of grace," was commended 
to every confirmed member, and the acceptance of the 
Godhead of Our Lord Jesus Christ was required equally 
with Baptism as a condition of membership. 

Mrs. Matthew, after twelve years of hard and con 
tinuous work as Central Secretary, resigned her post in 
the autumn of 1908 and Mrs. William Maude, London 
Diocesan Secretary was appointed in her place. In 
reviewing Mrs. Maude's work for the Central Mothers' 
Union during the past thirteen years it is not possible to 
express the deep appreciation which fills the grateful 
hearts of all her fellow-workers in the Union, to whose 
service she has devoted her life and her powers ever 
since she became its London Secretary some twenty 
years ago. 

1908 was the year of the great Pan Anglican Congress, 
and in June the Central Council of the Mothers' Union 
gave a reception at the Church House, Westminster, to 
the Overseas Delegates and their wives. Later in the 
year (October 28th) the first great Mass Meeting of the 
Mothers' Union was held in the Albert Hall, Kensington, 
with Archbishop Maclagan (of York) and the Bishop of 
Stepney (now Archbishop of York) present and 
Mrs. Sumner in the Chair. Although Mrs. Sumner was 
in her eightieth year and had celebrated her Diamond 
Wedding three months previously, she addressed the 
huge meeting with all her accustomed eloquence, and 
was received with the greatest enthusiasm. Mrs. Oluwole, 
wife of the African Bishop of Lagos, spoke of the deep 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 115 

appreciation felt by her country-women in Western 
Equatorial Africa for the Mothers' Union and of the help 
it brought to Christian mothers of every race and colour, 
uniting them in an unbreakable bond of fellowship and 
prayer. 

Shortly after the great Mass Meeting Bishop Sumner's 
failing health necessitated his resignation as Editor of 
Mothers in Council, and Canon Nash, of Winchester, was 
appointed in his place. Canon Nash proved a valuable 
and faithful friend to the Mothers' Union in this capacity 
and also in another way, as the next chapter will show. 

1909. 

In consequence of her advancing years, and the failing 
health of her beloved husband, Mrs. Sumner felt early 
in 1909 that the time for her resignation as Central 
President would soon be at hand, and she asked that 
members of the Council would elect one of their number 
to succeed her. Several ladies were approached but no 
one was willing even to be nominated as a candidate for 
election. The actual resignation of the revered Foundress 
of the Mothers' Union as the leader of its Governing Body 
was announced on December 9th at the half-yearly Council 
Meeting. Deep sympathy was expressed by all present 
on receiving the sad news that Bishop Sumner was dying. 
His death took place two days afterwards. 

It was imperative that a new President should be found, 
and the Dowager Countess of Chichester was prevailed 
upon to accept the post. She became President without 
a formal election, taking office on January 1st, 1910. 

The last year of Mrs. Sumner's Presidentship had been 
largely occupied with two matters, one of external, the 
other of internal importance to the Mothers' Union. 

The consideration of methods whereby the increasing 
tide of divorce might be stemmed led to an important 



116 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

event which was shortly to follow, and a necessary revision 
of the Constitution of the Mothers' Union seemed likely 
to cause some sharp division of opinion among the members 
of Council. 

The new President took the helm at a time when the 
ship of the Mothers' Union was entering somewhat stormy 
waters. Its passage through those waters and into various 
new ports of call will be the subject of the next chapter 
in its history. 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 117 



CHAPTER II 



1910—1911. 

Central President: 
THE DOWAGER COUNTESS OF CHICHESTER. 

THOSE who knew Lady Chichester realised how well 
the activities of her previous life had qualified her 
to preside over the affairs of what had now become 
a national and world-wide Society. The daughter of the 
first Lord Wolverton, and sister to the Hon. and Rev. 
Edward Carr Glyn (afterwards Bishop of Peterborough), 
the Hon. Alice Glyn had married in 1870 the Hon. and 
Rev. Francis Pelham, and worked devotedly with him 
among the poor in Lambeth, Yarmouth and other places ; 
always taking a leading part in the work of many Church 
Societies. When her husband became Earl of Chichester, 
other fields of influence opened out before her — for, alas, 
only too short a time. Lord and Lady Chichester had hardly 
settled down in their lovely Sussex home when the future 
President of the Mothers' Union was called upon to bear 
the sorrows of bereavement and widowhood. Her eldest 
son, the new Earl, came into occupation of Stanmer, and 
the Dowager Countess threw her energies afresh into 
religious and social work. She had much hesitation about 
accepting the leadership of the Mothers' Union, but her 
love for the Society overcame her own personal wishes 
in the matter, and she shouldered the burden of responsi 
bility with a good courage. 



118 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

Lady Chichester's first letter to all the Diocesan 
Presidents shows how seriously she intended to devote 
herself to her new sphere of work, and never once, during 
her six years of office, did she spare herself in any way. 
" Dear Fellow-Workers, 

I wish to lose no time in expressing to you my deep appre 
ciation of the honour you have done me in calling me to the 
post of President of the Central Council of the Mothers' Union. 
It has been absolutely unsought and unlocked for by me 
and the sense of your confidence at such a time is the greatest 
help to me. 

No one can possibly fill the place of our venerated Foundress 
and President ; her position with regard to the Mothers' Union 
is unique and will always remain so. Many members of the 
Central Council are more intimate and have a longer and 
closer friendship with her than I can boast, but I yield to 
none in my affection for her delightful personality or in my 
admiration for the directness of aim, the steadfastness of 
purpose and the skill of her guidance, by which this great 
Society has grown up under her hands. Never again can any 
President be what our Foundress and first President has been, 
or live to see, as she has seen, the striking response to her idea 
of a Mothers' Union. Never again can one individual bear 
alone the weight and responsibility of the work which has 
gathered such strength and expansion under her direction. 

Your President may, through the co-operation of the 
Central Council and Executive Committee and with the aid 
of skilled help in the Office, endeavour to conduct the business, 
guide the deliberations and regulate and assimilate the work, 
but neither on myself nor on any other President can Mrs. 
Sumner's mantle fall. All that has grown up with the years 
under her care would weigh down — as a sudden burden — 
anyone unpractised to the strain. Her mantle falls on the 
Central Council and its Executive Committee and on the 
President as their responsible officer. As such it will be my 
earnest endeavour to serve to the best of my power, for a time, 
the great cause of the Mothers' Unjon, 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 119 

I feel deeply the gravity of the crisis which this first break 
in the long government of the Mothers' Union may cause. 
I look to the support of the Central Council — to its wise judg 
ment, calm courage and wide sympathies, to carry forward 
the work of the Mothers' Union (with its simple organisation 
and its sympathetic methods) in the spirit in which it was 
originally conceived. 

The Revision of the Constitution at this particular moment 
is an additional anxiety. The necessity for it is, however, 
acknowledged. The extraordinary development and extension 
of the Mothers' Union demands that with the lengthening of 
its cords must come the strengthening of its stakes. 

I know I may count at this juncture upon the prayers of 
those who know me. Of those to whom I am now a stranger 
I ask their indulgence and also their prayers, that the work 
we all love may not be hindered at this time but may go on 
from strength to strength. 

I am, your obedient servant, 

A. CHICHESTER." 

1910. 

One of Lady Chichester's first duties was of a national 
character, namely, to forward to Queen Alexandra, on 
behalf of the whole Mothers' Union, an address of sympathy 
on the lamented death of King Edward and to arrange 
for a crown of flowers to be sent to Windsor on the day 
of the Royal funeral. 

Subjects of far-reaching importance faced the new 
President as she took up her work. As has been already 
recorded, the last year of Mrs. Sumner's administration 
had been largely occupied with the subject of Divorce 
and the attitude to be taken towards the Royal Commission 
on Divorce then commencing its operations. At the 
Council of December, 1909, The Lady Horatia Erskine 
reported that Mrs. Sumner had written to the Archbishop 
of York on the subject of a monster petition against the 



122 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

reply to the Chairman she stated that the Mothers' Union 
would be in favour of the repeal of the Act of 1857 and urged 
that relief should only be obtainable by way of ' Separation,' 
which keeps the door open for reconciliation and which should 
be made equally accessible to all classes, irrespective of their 
means. The demand for increased facilities was a pandering 
to the present-day idea that suffering and hardship were to be 
deprecated and avoided at any cost. 

" Mrs. Hubbard maintained that the national character 
was raised by patient endurance of hardships and not by 
lessening responsibilities, and emphasised the words of the 
Marriage Vow 'for better, for worse,' etc., as contemplating 
the necessary bearing of hardship. She held that observance 
of the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage was the only 
real method of preventing the demoralisation of Society, and 
contended that as churchwomen they regarded marriage after 
divorce as immoral. 

" This point was driven home by one or two striking 
instances of the way in which, among the upper classes, marriage 
is being entered into as an experiment with the alternative of 
divorce in view from the outset. It was obvious that the more 
difficult it was to get out of a contract the more careful people 
would be as to entering into it. Pressed as to the difficulty 
of the unequal operation of the present law as between rich 
and poor, Mrs. Hubbard replied that, while fully recognising 
as a general principle that every individual has an equal right 
to the protection of the law, the Mothers' Union believing 
Divorce to be wrong in itself could not but protest against 
any extension of it. She also stated her conviction that among 
the respectable poor there was no desire for facilities for 
Divorce. 

*' Mrs. Francis Steinthal, Diocesan Secretary for the Mothers' 
Union in the Diocese of Ripon, corroborated this statement, 
and from ultimate knowledge of the working classes in large 
towns was in a position to say that, for the most part, they 
resent the idea that they wish for any extension of Divorce 
facilities. She presented resolutions to this effect from over 
85,000 working mothers. She had it on the authority of 
many who were striving to bring up their families to respect 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 123 

marriage, that to cheapen Divorce would lead their sons and 
daughters to enter upon marriage more lightly. They also 
felt that it was an injustice to those who were struggling to 
lead a good life that vice should be legalised. Mrs. Steinthal 
said that to the sober, intelligent working men and women, 
their marriage vows have a deep significance. It was also 
their widespread desire that details of divorce cases should be 
kept out of papers. 

" Mrs. Church, speaking with a long experience of life 
amongst the very poor in East London also affirmed that 
there was no large desire for Divorce but that, on the contrary, 
the poor despised the richer folk for the readiness with which 
they sought it. The respectable working classes have a strong 
conviction that husband and wife are one till death. Mrs. 
Church also endorsed the statement made by the former 
witness as to the degrading influence of the details published 
of Divorce cases. 

" The Mothers' Union must be congratulated on the firm 
stand made by their representatives against any extension of 
Divorce facilities, and we may feel sure that the constant 
enunciation of their views on the sanctity of marriage, as 
based on the teaching of the Church, will not be without 
its effect." 

Here we must leave the Divorce question for the 
moment and turn to other matters that claimed the atten 
tion of the Central Council early in 1910. 

In March Mr. Hill resigned his post as Treasurer and 
the Rev. R. T. Gardner was appointed in his place. A 
second room was taken by the Mothers' Union in the 
Church House to serve as Mrs. Maude's private office 
and as a Committee Room. The Staff by now had 
increased by two Assistant Secretaries and they carried 
on their work in the original office taken in 1889. 

The Revision of the Constitution had already been 
occupying the time of the Council for more than a year. 
Mrs. Sumner had herself been the first to propose certain 
alterations, but although her suggestions had l)een sent 



124 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

to each Diocesan Council for approval they were not 
sufficiently supported to enable them to be carried into 
effect. Gradually the need for revision became manifest to 
all, and the difficulty then lay in the number and variety 
of alterations proposed. No two dioceses were of quite 
the same mind in the matter, and the wording of the 
Members' Card proved a thorny problem, which produced 
great variety of opinion. 

Previous to the work of Revision it had become evident 
that a further step would be advisable to consolidate the 
position of the Mothers' Union and to protect its title, 
publications and funds. Hitherto there had been no 
Central Body in the Mothers' Union which could legally 
hold or invest property, or take proceedings if its title or 
its publications were pirated. Societies with very different 
objects were springing up in various parts of the country, 
using the same title, " The Mothers' Union," and 
publishers, finding that to head a booklet " Mothers' 
Union " gave it a ready sale were not always scrupulous 
about gaining permission for the privilege. 

Many difficulties and some confusion having arisen, 
it was considered advisable to obtain legal opinion upon 
the position of the Mothers' Union and its possessions, 
investments, powers and publications. The legal advisors 
of the Mothers' Union were consulted and they strongly 
urged that the Mothers' Union should become an Incor 
porated Society with a Charter of its own, thereby placing 
its name, funds and publications under the protection of 
the Board of Trade. The Archbishop of Canterbury 
(Dr. Randall Davidson) also advised that this important 
step should be taken. 

1911. 

It was necessary to postpone the December Council 
of 1910 to February 1911, in order th$t a statement of 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 125 

facts might be prepared to lay before that assembly, and 
although all members of the Council were not equally 
ready for the new move, the principle of Incorporation 
was then carried. The legal adviser addressed the Council 
and made a clear statement of how matters stood. The 
Council was then, he explained, merely a " Consultative 
Committee," but by means of " Incorporation " it would 
become a " Legal and Corporate Body." 

The Revision of the Constitution now became even 
more urgently necessary, and in June 1911 a special 
Committee was appointed to carry through the under 
taking. This Committee met for several consecutive 
days in October 1911, and again in February 1912, to 
draw up a Report to be presented to the Council in the 
following June. It was at this juncture that Canon Nash, 
Editor of Mothers in Council, proved his friendship for 
the Mothers' Union by consenting to act as Chairman of 
this Committee; a task of no little difficulty, which he 
admirably performed. 

Before leaving the year 1911 there are a few other 
points of interest to record. From the outset of her 
leadership in the Mothers' Union, Lady Chichester carried 
her conviction that the Mothers' Union must concern 
itself with all that affected national purity of life into 
the work of its Councils. The homes of the country 
must ever be the sources whence purity in national life 
must flow, and every endeavour made by the Church or 
State to stem pollution must be aided by the largest and 
most influential Society of women within the Church. 
Therefore, late in 1910, a Bill to raise the age of Protection 
for Boys and Girls (Mr. King's " Morality Bill ") engaged 
the consideration of the Mothers' Union Central Council, 
and the progress of every Criminal Law Amendment 
Bill before the country has been watched and supported 
by the Central Council ever since. 



126 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

In March 1911 a meeting was called by the Mothers' 
Union to warn workers of the insidious danger of the 
Mormon Campaign in England — a danger that is by no 
means a thing of the past in 1921. 

The Triennial Elections throughout the Mothers' 
Union took place in 1911 ; Sir David and Lady Horatia 
Erskine celebrated their Golden Wedding, and received 
an address and gifts from the Central Council and from 
the London Diocesan Council; representatives were 
appointed by the Mothers' Union to serve on the Central 
Councils of "Women's Church Work" and of the 
" Parents' National Educational Union." Beautiful 
Coronation Cards in honour of King George and Queen 
Mary were issued by the Literature Committee — on 
which figured prominently King George's fine words 
that " The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its 
people." 

The Winchester Buttress Fund, in memory of Bishop 
Sumner, was started during this year, and a campaign to 
oppose the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church was 
inaugurated by a strong Ladies' Committee, presided over 
by the Hon. Mrs. Gell and Mrs. Wilberforce. 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 127 



CHAPTER III 



1912 — 1916. 

Central President : 
THE DOWAGER COUNTESS OF CHICHESTER. 

1912. 

THE year of 1912 opened in great activity. The 
danger of Socialistic Sunday Schools engaged the 
serious attention of the Council, and letters of 
warning were sent to all the leading clergy. Pernicious 
literature was then, as always, a problem with which 
the Mothers' Union was bound to deal. The White Slave 
Traffic caused a wave of horror and alarm to flow through 
out the country, and the Mothers' Union took its part 
in a Mass Meeting at the London Opera House to expose 
the evil and to rouse the Government to action with regard 
to it. 

In December of this year, at the earnest instigation 
of Lady Laura Ridding, a " Watch Committee " was 
appointed by the Central Council " to watch and give 
information and to advise the Council as to desirable 
action with regard to legislative proposals in Parliament 
concerning matters affecting the welfare of the mothers 
of the nation." 

The importance of the work of this Committee will 
become apparent as this history proceeds. In December, 
1912, Mr. Cecil Bovill succeeded Rev. R. J. Gardner as 
Central Treasurer ; an Overseas Committee was appointed, 
also a Central Committee for furthering work among 
Nurses. 

We now turn back to the two great matters of import 
ance — the result of the Royal Commission on Divorce 



128 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

and the Revision of the Constitution of the Mothers' 
Union. 

It was not until November 1912 that Lady Chichester 
and Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard were invited by Sir Lewis 
Dibdin to a discussion upon the Minority Report of the 
Divorce Commission then in the printer's hands. Sir Lewis 
was most appreciative of all the trouble and energy that 
had been spent on memorialising Mothers' Union members, 
and begged this should never be regarded as of no avail. 
He felt that the testimony borne by the Mothers' Union 
had had a very perceptible influence upon the minds of 
the Commissioners, and that a work of real importance 
had been accomplished, not only for the Mothers' Union 
but for the whole Church. 

The Report of the Committee for the Revision of the 
Constitution of the Mothers' Union was presented, as 
arranged, at the June Council, 1912. The Council first 
considered Part I, which dealt with Incorporation and 
the adoption of the New Charter. This gave rise to con 
siderable discussion, but, in the end, the adoption was 
carried by 47 votes against 4, and the Mothers' Union 
became an Incorporated Society. Part II was then dis 
cussed, but as the wording of the proposed new Central 
Card for Membership (for all members alike, the system 
of two cards having been abolished) proved difficult, a 
special Committee was appointed to go more fully into 
the matter. 

On October 17th, 1912, the first General Meeting of 
the newly incorporated Society took place for the purpose 
of electing its " Incorporated Members." The Election 
for the new Central Council followed, and every member 
of the former Council was re-elected, all of them being, 
of course, among the first 130 Incorporated Members. 
The following day the Council met again and formally 
adopted Parts II and III in the Revision Committee's 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 129 

Report, and accepted the suggestions as to the formation 
of a Special Card Committee. Parts I, II and III of the 
Revised and Incorporated Constitution were subsequently 
published in the form of a little " grey " book, which 
should be in every Mothers' Union worker's hands. 

The Card of Membership and the Associate's Card 
were eventually accepted in their new form with only five 
dissentients, and a unanimous vote of thanks was passed 
to Mrs. Sumner for the noble way in which she had met 
and considered the alteration of her original Cards, and 
for the unselfishness with which she had throughout the 
Revision yielded to the wishes of others. 

Those who had been anxious to see the Revision carried 
into effect felt now, in October 1912, like the crew of a 
vessel that had weathered many storms but had at last 
arrived at a haven where they would be. A great deal of 
the early opposition had melted away, and the serious 
discussions on all sides upon the questions raised had 
changed some early dissentients into strong supporters 
of the scheme. Looking back to those days, leaders of the 
Mothers' Union remain full of wonder at and gratitude 
for the accomplishment of &o great a task. The loyal way 
in which those who disapproved of the changes have 
carried them out is worthy of all praise. Each year brings 
fresh proof of the advantages of the revised organisation, 
especially in the work of the Mothers' Union Overseas. 

It is perhaps important to place on record here some of 
the points that emerged when the Mothers' Union became 
an Incorporated Society. First it had " legally " to define 
itself as a Church Society ; nothing less definite than this was 
ever the intention of its Foundress. The legal advisors informed 
the Council that every " official " in a Church Society must 
be a confirmed member of the Church of England or of a 
Church in communion therewith, and that this rule applied 
to all members of Committees, whether of a diocese, deanery 
or branch. 

K 



130 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

This ruling necessitated correspondence with the Scottish 
Mothers' Union and with the Bishops overseas, in consequence 
of the " Bracket " clause, already referred to.* The Bishops 
overseas not only agreed to the rescinding of the " Bracket " 
clause but the great majority whole-heartedly welcomed the 
alteration and some Bishops, who had not accepted the Mothers' 
Union in their dioceses because of the clause were ready now 
to do so. 

The leaders in the Scottish Mothers' Union, however, felt 
obliged to take a different line of action, when they were 
made acquainted with the necessity for every member of the 
Central Council becoming an Incorporated Member of the 
Mothers' Union. They were not prepared to pledge themselves 
only to send to Council as their representatives, confirmed 
members of the Episcopal Church hi Scotland, and preferred 
to continue the work of the Scottish Mothers' Union as a 
separate organisation, closely affiliated to the parent Society 
but not controlled by its Central governing body. 

At the December Council of 1912 it was decided that 
every home diocese must contribute to the Central Fund at 
the rate of 2s. per branch, the minimum tribute from any 
diocese being £5. Overseas dioceses were only required to 
contribute £1 each. 

In 1909 the Council had agreed to support a Missionary 
worker in the Diocese of Tinnevelly, Southern India, and 
Miss Rix, of the S.P.G., was appointed. In 1912 an 
appeal was made that the Mothers' Union should also 
support a worker — this time from the C.M.S. in the ad 
joining Diocese of Travancore. Miss Lilian Davis was 
chosen to carry on this work. Miss Rix has now retired 
from active work, full of years and honour, and Miss 
Herring is " carrying on " in her place. Miss Davis is 
still the Mothers' Union Missionary worker in Travancore, 
respected and beloved by many hundreds of friends and 
supporters both at home and in Southern India. 

1913. 

In June 1913 the Central Council met for the first 
* See page 109. 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 131 

time outside London, a suggestion having been received 
from the Archbishop of York (Dr. Lang) that his ancient 
city would like to receive the Annual Conference of the 
Mothers' Union. By the kindness of His Grace, and of 
Mrs. Pennyman, Diocesan President of the Mothers' Union 
in York, and of her Council, a delightful week was spent, 
and Yorkshire hostesses vied with each other in the enter 
tainment of their fellow-members from all parts. Mrs. 
Sumner, ever young, bore the strain of the many services 
and meetings as well as any of her fellow-workers and 
remained fresh and enthusiastic throughout all the week's 
proceedings. 

The Central Council met on June 5th in St. William's 
College by the kind permission of the Archbishop. His Grace 
in his Cathedral sermon spoke serious words upon this occasion 
which it may be well to quote : — " It is my conviction, founded 
on personal experience, that the Mothers' Union has a definite 
and national work to do." Very gravely and unflinchingly 
His Grace indicated the social problems which the Mothers' 
Union must not ignore and especially " The avoidance of 
sacrifice which resulted in a declining birth-rate." "The 
time has come," His Grace added, " when the Mothers' Union 
is entitled to look to the Bishops for guidance, and I hope if 
they ask for it they will not ask in vain." 

At this Council, held in York, two important developments 
with regard to the literature of the Mothers' Union were 
decided upon. (1) A Monthly Magazine for Workers was to 
be launched in January 1914 — this is now known all over the 
world as The Worker*? Paper — and (2) Mrs. George Chitty 
was appointed Correspondent of the new Mothers' Union 
Religious Education Scheme, in connection with which a 
Book Supply was to be organised under the superintendence of 
Mrs. Rowland Barker. 

In December 1913 Miss Marcia Tucker was appointed 
Editor of the Workers* Paper and two additional offices 
were secured in the Church House, one to provide room 
for the Library and Book Supply and for the use of the 



132 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

new Editor, the second for Mothers' Union literature 
and publications and for the use of the Financial Clerk. 
Mrs. F. S. Boas was at this time appointed Central Cor 
respondent for Literature, a post which she still (1921) 
most ably fills. 

At the December Council the President reminded its 
members of the Archbishop's counsel at York, and she 
was authorised to send the following letter to every 
Bishop at home and overseas : — 
" My Lord Bishop, 

On behalf of the Central Council of the Mothers' Union, 
I beg to submit to your Lordship the following resolution 
passed at the Central Council held at the Church House on 
December 4th, 1913: — 

' The Central Council of the Mothers' Union recognising 
that certain present customs of limiting the family are 
contrary to the Divine Law and hostile to the best interests 
of the nation, appeals to the Bishops for guidance in dis 
seminating the Christian principle which forbids such 
avoidance of parenthood and for directions in educating 
public opinion against this great evil.' 
It is a formal outcome of long thought and prayer on the 
need of action in opposition to the great and growing evil of 
artificial restriction of families, an evil which affects and gives 
rise to much perplexity among conscientious and devout 
people. The first object of the Mothers' Union is to maintain 
the reverent use of the married state, and therefore we accept 
the obligation to help in resisting the increasing decline of the 
English birth-rate, yet we consider that until some principle 
of action is defined by the authority of the Church, and until 
we are called by our leaders to co-operate, we cannot wisely 
go forward with any suggestion for ameliorating this danger 
to our national life. 

Asking your gracious consideration of our appeal and waiting 
your guidance in the endeavour to build up a healthy public 
opinion. 

I beg to subscribe myself, 

Your Lordship's obedient servant, 
(Signed) A. CHICHESTER, 

Central President.' 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 133 

As some of these letters had to go to the Antipodes 
and to the remotest dioceses, some months elapsed before 
answers were received, and they numbered forty-eight. 
The Archbishops signified their approval. Many Bishops 
did not feel able to return very definite replies, and some 
said that this question had been and would be again 
before a sub-committee of Bishops. One Bishop con 
sidered it a matter of sufficient importance to go before 
" The United Episcopate." It may therefore humbly 
be claimed by the Mothers' Union that the appeal made 
in 1913 — 1914 did most directly influence the Resolution 
passed by " The United Episcopate " at the Lambeth 
Conference of 1920. 

1914. 

In June, 1914, Working Women Delegates from four 
dioceses attended the Conference Service at St. Paul's 
Cathedral. This system of " Delegates " has now (1921) 
ripened into a comprehensive " Representation Scheme," 
whereby every Diocesan Council may send three repre 
sentatives to the Central Council — President, Secretary 
and one Industrial Member. 

The Literature Committee was busy this year with 
the Inauguration of the Religious Education Scheme and 
its Book Supply (so largely due to the initiative of 
Mrs. Rowland Barker). 

The Official Handbook was prepared this year for its first issue 
in 1915 ; the Workers' Paper made its appearance ; leaflets on 
Moral Instruction were provided by request ; and. in response 
to an offer made by the " White Star " and " Cunard " Ship 
ping Companies, literature for the use of emigrants on liners 
was provided by the Mothers' Union. Miss Tucker found 
herself obliged to resign her post as Editor of the Workers' 
Paper in the Autumn of 1914, and Mrs. Beaumaris Woodward 
was appointed Editor and still holds the office. 

Support was given by the Central Council to the Bishop 



134 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

of London's new " Criminal Law Amendment Bill," and 
" Resolutions " upon it were sent to both Houses of Parliament. 

The work Overseas was well co-ordinated by giving 
new powers to the Overseas Committee at Headquarters ; 
Provincial Councils for Overseas countries were discussed 
and their scope denned ; many new grants were made to 
Bishops in Missionary dioceses for the work of the Mothers' 
Union; a worker was sent out to Calgary, Western 
Canada, for some months, and a beautiful banner was 
received from native members in Madagascar, woven, 
designed and worked by their own hands. 

The opening months of the Great War called for much 
new effort on the part of the Mothers' Union at 
Headquarters. The increase of drinking among women, 
the position of unmarried mothers, the formation of the 
League of Honour for girls and young women and the 
relationship of the Mothers' Union towards it, Women 
Patrols, the Professional Classes' War Relief Council 
and its Maternity Homes — all these matters required 
close attention, and arrangements were made to enable 
Mothers' Union members to take their part in the proposed 
day of National Prayer and Intercession, January 3rd, 
1915. 

1915. 

The outstanding events of this year within the Mothers' 
Union were six in number. First, the Buttress Fund of 
1911-12 had been so well supported by Mothers' Union 
members that some £1200 had been gathered in — enough 
to pay for two Buttresses with £250 to spare. This 
£250 was handed over by Mrs. Sumner to the Central 
Council for the promotion of Mothers' Union work 
Overseas. 

The second event was a sad one. Canon Nash, the 
good friend of the Mothers' Union and Editor of Mothers 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 135 

in Council, died in June. The July number of Mothers 
in Council was in print and Canon Vaughan, of Winchester, 
kindly undertook to produce the October number, while 
the question of a new Editor was under consideration. 
Eventually it was decided to publish Mothers in Council 
as well as the Workers' Paper from Headquarters and 
Mrs. Woodward was appointed Editor of both magazines. 

The third event was one which gave great satis 
faction; namely, the fusion of the Chichester Diocesan 
Mothers' Guild with the Mothers' Union, to the strengthen 
ing of both organisations. 

Fourthly, a " Speakers' Committee " was formed 
and soon became a very important factor in the Central 
Organisation of the Mothers' Union — the Hon. Mrs. 
Gell and Mrs. Wyndham Knight Bruce being its efficient 
and inspiring leaders 

The fifth event was a Conference arranged between 
members of the Mothers' Union and members of the 
Headmistresses' Association with a view to co-operation 
in religious training of girls, and the sixth point to notice 
is the inauguration of the Pilgrim Movement among 
women, which had its birth within the Mothers' Union at 
one of its Executive Committees in the summer of 1914, 

The Society of the Pilgrimage of Prayer was formed 
and this soon had its own and separate organisation, 
but it is a satisfaction to be able to reflect that it originated 
within the Mothers' Union and that the first group of 
Pilgrims were mainly Mothers' Union Workers, as is 
still to a considerable extent the ca&e. 

The Watch Committee during 1915 concerned itself 
with many important matters and made its influence 
widely felt. Mrs. John Clay, Mrs. Cecil Hook, Mrs. James 
Gow are names which must never be forgotten in this 
connection, while the mainspring of their inspiration was 
found in the Central President's passionate enthusiasm 



136 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

in the cause of national purity. Criminal assaults on 
children and indecent advertisements, postcards, etc., 
were attacked with courage, and no little good resulted, 
although more remains to be accomplished. 

Lady Horatia Erskine had a long and severe illness 
in 1915, which unfortunately resulted in her being obliged 
to discontinue her attendance at the Council and Com 
mittee Meetings. Her interest in all that concerns the 
Mothers' Union has, nevertheless, continued unabated, 
and was fully shared by her husband, Sir David Erskine, 
as long as his health permitted. 

It came as a bolt from the blue when Lady Chichester 
announced by letter in January 1916, that home claims 
demanded her retirement from a post of so much responsi 
bility as that of President of the Mothers' Union. Her 
decision could only be accepted with the great regret of 
every member of the Central Council and it was decided 
to call an Emergency Meeting of the Council in February 
1916, in order to receive formally Lady Chichester's 
resignation and to elect her successor. 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 137 



CHAPTER IV 



1916—1917. 
Central President : 

MRS. WlLBERFORCE. 

WHEN the Central Council met in February 1916, 
for the sole purpose of appointing a new President, 
its members with one accord elected Mrs. Ernest 
Wilberforce, who at that time had been presiding over 
the Mothers' Union in the Diocese of London for over 
seven years. . 

There was little necessity for the usual formalities 
of so august a proceeding as a Presidential Election, for 
no fewer than forty nominations had been received for 
Mrs. Wilberforce and she was, therefore, unanimously 
acclaimed Central President by a show of hands. 

Mrs. Wilberforce's act of self-surrender in consenting 
to stand for election at such a time as the second year 
of the Great War was characteristic of the unsparing way 
in which she ever subordinated personal inclination to 
the call of duty. It was abundantly evident that she, 
above all others, was uniquely fitted for the position of 
leader in the Mothers' Union at that time. As Miss Emily 
Connor — daughter of Canon Connor, Vicar of Newport, 
Isle of Wight, and afterwards Dean of Windsor and 
Domestic Chaplain to Queen Victoria — she was married 
in 1874 to the Rev. Ernest Wilberforce, afterwards Bishop 
first of Newcastle and then of Chichester, and at that 
time Vicar of Seaforth, in Lancashire. Until the Bishop's 
(Jeath, in 1907, Mrs, Wilberforce had joined heart and 



138 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

soul with him in his many-sided work, which often included 
the championing of unpopular causes among people whose 
enthusiasm it was hard to stir. It is good to be able to 
record that their united work for the Mothers' Union 
was always an inspiration and a joy to them both, and it 
must be gratefully remembered that had not Bishop 
Wilberforce (then of Newcastle) prevailed upon Mrs. 
Sumner to address the Church Congress at Portsmouth 
in 1885, there might never have been the Mothers' Union 
as it is known and loved to-day. 

In 1916 Mrs. Wilberforce, with her three sons and 
two sons-in-law on active service, was full of anxiety 
and home cares. But the call came and, as there was no 
denying its insistence, she nobly consented to " carry on " 
the work as Central President until the next Triennial 
Elections, which were due in 1917. 

The first Central Council presided over by the new 
President was that of June 6th, 1916. The occasion is 
never likely to be forgotten by those present as the news 
of the loss of the Hampshire and the death of Lord 
Kitchener came as an almost stunning blow in the midst 
of the Council's deliberations. 

Nevertheless important decisions were made on this 
eventful day. 

The following Message to the Women of France was 
drafted by the Council and despatched from the Annual 
Conference held the same week: — 

*' WE, as representing Members of the Mothers' Union in 
all parts of Great Britain and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, 
South Africa, Canada, India, West Indies, Western Equatorial 
Africa, Uganda, Newfoundland and Bermuda, Gibraltar and 
Cairo, also in China, Japan, Madagascar and the Falkland 
Islands, desire to extend our sisterly sympathy to the Wives, 
the Mothers and the Daughters of France. The suffering which 
you have endured at the hands of a relentless foe have aroused 
in our hearts the profoundest emotion of horror and indignation, 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 189 

" We, too, have suffered in this terrible war : we have, 
like you, given of our best and bravest as a sacrifice in the 
cause of Liberty and Justice. Unlike you, we have not, so 
far, had the grief of seeing our country's soil profaned by the 
foot of the invader. But the invincible courage with which 
you have borne these misfortunes has enriched the world 
through a patriotism which counts personal ease, safety, and 
life itself as dust in the scale when weighed against the welfare 
and the integrity of France, while you are setting an example 
of fearless devotion to duty which calls forth our highest 
admiration and deepest affectionate sympathy. This is the 
spirit to ensure the victory which we pray by the mercy of 
God may not be long delayed." 

The important event of June 6th, 1916, as concerning 
the whole future work of the Mothers' Union was the 
inception of the Mary Sumner House Scheme. This 
proposal did not come before the Council on this occasion 
for discussion. The President called a special meeting 
of Diocesan Presidents at the conclusion of the Council 
Meeting to ask for their co-operation in a plan whereby 
the world- wide work of the Mothers' Union might be still 
further strengthened and co-ordinated at its Centre. 

The main point in the scheme was the building and 
endowment of a Central House which should be established 
in Westminster as a Memorial of the life work of the 
Foundress of the Mothers' Union and which should bear 
her honoured name. Mrs. Sumner, who had been already 
consulted, was deeply appreciative and ready to give the 
whole matter her blessing and her prayers, though she 
hardly expected at her advanced age to see the House 
in being. The Diocesan Presidents not only expressed 
general approval of the plan, but empowered the Executive 
Committee to proceed with it, should occasion arise, 
before the next meeting of the Council. 

Circumstances hastened events to a degree never at 
first anticipated. A great wave of desire to save and 



140 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

guard the child-life of the nation flooded the country 
during the next two months. It found expression in the 
cry: "Save the Children." The Press resounded with 
it, and every organisation which directly or indirectly 
felt itself responsible, rose to fresh effort and put forth 
more power. It was not possible for the Mothers' Union 
to stand aside and take no active part in this national 
movement. Its leaders felt that the greatest Society for 
mothers that the world had ever known must do its part 
and on its own approved lines. Workers must be trained 
by the Mothers' Union to help the mothers of the land to 
become more capable of rearing and training a fine genera 
tion of children in the faith and fear of God and 
in the knowledge of His laws and the works of His 
Commandments. 

The Central President felt strongly that no longer 
could the Mothers' Union contemplate its " House " as 
a vision of the future, but its leaders must endeavour to 
bring it without delay into the realm of solid fact. Many 
people of influence, experience and business ability urged 
the President to act promptly in the face of the great 
opportunity that offered. 

An appeal for £50,000 was therefore issued, and, 
while it was hoped a large proportion of this would be 
made up of small sums from the 400,000 members, yet it 
was also thought advisable to interest a wider public by 
the insertion of a letter in The Times and other papers. 

A copy of the letter was sent to the Queen's lady- 
in-waiting, who laid it before Her Majesty. A gracious 
and encouraging reply was received, expressing Queen 
Mary's high approval of the proposal and her hope that it 
would be carried out with very great success. 

A " Building Fund " was accordingly opened for the 
44 Mary Sumner House," and on December 6th, 1916, 
the Central Council unanimously ratified their approval, 
already given informally, in the following Resolution;— 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 141 

" That the Mothers' Union shall acquire such premises 
as funds permit for the ' Mary Sumner House,' which shall 
be the Central Institute for Mothers' Union work, and shall 
comprise the Mothers' Union Offices, a Chapel, Library, rooms 
for Meetings, Lectures, and Model Classes. 

** That the training of Workers for spiritual and physical 
instruction shall be undertaken, and also the study of Child 
Welfare and Mothercraft in co-operation with recognised Infant 
Welfare Centres." 

1917. 

It was agreed that the Triennial Elections, due this 
year, must be postponed until the end of the War, and 
all those who held office were asked to carry on their 
work to the best of their ability. Led by the Central 
President, all Presidents and Members of Committees, 
etc., did endeavour most loyally to serve the Mothers' 
Union during these trying years. 

The Mothers' Union threw its influence into various 
departments of war service and associated itself with 
the National War Savings Committee, the Economy 
Campaign organised by the Ministry of Food and with 
every right and wise effort made in the cause of national 
purity. Miss Soulsby attended, as an Associate and 
representative of the Mothers' Union, the International 
Congress of the World's Purity Federation, held at 
Kentucky, U.S.A., in November 1917. 

The increase of drinking among women called for 
renewed effort in the cause of temperance and the Mothers' 
Union appointed Mrs. Russell Walker to the post of 
Central Correspondent for Temperance Work. Mrs. 
Russell Walker has thrown herself into the work with 
the enthusiasm and ability of her father, Bishop Ernest 
Wilberforce, and has so increased it by good organisation 
that there is likely to be, before long, a Mothers' Union 
Temperance Correspondent in communication with 
Mrs. Russell Walker in every diocese. 



142 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

Before leaving subjects connected with war conditions 
in 1917, mention must be made of a protest sent by the 
Mothers' Union to both Houses of Parliament with regard 
to the use of the expression " unmarried wives." It was 
pointed out that this wrong use of a word held sacred by 
millions of men and women in the country was not only 
offensive to married people but degrading to the institu 
tion of marriage, even apart from its definitely religious 
conception. It may be said here that a similar protest 
is being made at the present time (November 1921), as 
the expression is again in Government use in connexion 
with out-of-work relief. 

A Provisional Committee for Marriage Defence was 
formed in October 1917, to arouse the country to the 
danger of the Matrimonial Causes Bill, drafted by the 
Divorce Law Reform Union, which made three years of 
separation a ground for divorce. 

This Bill was eventually withdrawn, but others of a 
similar nature have been before both Houses of Parliament 
and yet another is shortly to be expected. The Marriage 
Defence Council is still active in opposing all destructive 
legislation regarding marriage and although it has had 
now, for some years, its own offices and scope of work, 
it is satisfactory to contemplate that its first meetings 
were convened by and held in the offices of the Mothers' 
Union. 

By the President's great wish, a Young Wives' Central 
Committee was formed during this year to further the 
work of the Mothers' Union among young mothers, and 
young wives without children. A Conference of Young 
Wives, arranged by this Committee, met, by the kind 
invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and 
Mrs. Davidson, at Lambeth Palace in December 1917. 
The Conference lasted three days and its result was the 
formation within the Mothers' Union of the " Young 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 143 

Wives' Fellowship," under the leadership of Mrs. Lionel 
Ford and Lady Fletcher. 

The Fellowship soon attracted many to its meetings 
and conferences who found themselves unable to accept 
entirely the foundation principles of the Mothers' Union, 
and in order to gather in this wider circle of young mother 
hood the leaders of the Fellowship decided eventually to 
work independently of the Mothers' Union while remaining 
in close touch with its Council and Committees in every 
diocese. This departure did not actually take place until 
1920; the " Fellowship " is now known as the "Wives' 
Fellowship," and its members are young married women 
of education and leisure, whose problems include those 
of the nursery and schoolroom. The original Young 
Wives' Committee remains in the Mothers' Union to 
carry on the work for which it was appointed, namely, 
the furtherance of Mothers' Union ideals and principles 
among young wives and mothers in every walk of life, 
without distinction of circumstance. 

It is noteworthy that during this same year the 
sympathies of the Mothers' Union were extended to the 
Girl Guide movement — in the hope that the Guide Com 
panies of to-day were providing a wide and sound training 
for the wives and mothers of to-morrow. 

The outstanding event of 1917 need only be lightly 
touched upon here as it appears in the first part of 
this book. In June 1917 the temporary " Mary Sumner 
House " was opened by H.R.H. Princess Christian and 
dedicated by the Bishop of London. No. 8, Dean's Yard, 
a house adjoining and belonging to the Church House, 
became vacant unexpectedly and was offered to the 
Mothers' Union on a short tenancy. The House has 
proved an admirable temporary home for the offices of 
the Mothers' Union and provides a Library, Lecture 
Room, Committee Room and Chapel — all on a small 



144 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

scale and now fast becoming inadequate to the work 
carried on there. 

The Rev. Gordon Savile, Secretary to the Church of 
England Men's Society, was invited to become Chaplain 
to the Mary Sumner House. Celebrations of the Holy 
Communion take place at regular intervals in the Chapel ; 
prayers are read every day and a special service of devotion 
and intercession with a short address is held at noon each 
Friday. The Mothers' Union is indebted to Mr. Savile 
and to many other clergy for kindness in taking the 
Chapel services and giving addresses to workers. 

Two Overseas matters of interest come into this 
eventful year. A magazine for Australian members of 
the Mothers' Union was started in Sydney Diocese, under 
the able Editorship of Mrs. Pattinson. Mothers in 
Australia soon gained a large circulation and it now finds 
its way into every Australian diocese. Many members, 
however, especially those not long from the home country, 
still take the Mothers 9 Union Journal. 

New Zealand, ever generous and loyal, sent from 
Mothers' Union members a collection of £268 for the 
relief of their suffering fellow-sisters in the devastated 
areas of France and Serbia. This splendid gift, the result 
of a self-denial effort, was expended in exactly the way 
desired, and many a homeless mother with a child coming, 
or in arms, was helped by the loving self-sacrifice of the 
New Zealand women. Touching presents of money 
came also from native and coloured members in South 
Africa for fellow-members at home, to convey, in the 
gift-language understood of the child -races, their sympathy 
for white mothers in the bereavements of war. Thus 
were members of the Mothers' Union being daily more 
closely enfolded together in the robe woven of sympathy, 
and jewelled with loving thoughts and prayers. 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 145 



CHAPTER V 



1918—1920. 
Central President : 

MRS. WlLBERFORCE. 

1918. 

THE June Council opened in sorrow. The Central 
President was unable to be present owing to the 
sudden death, the result of a flying accident, of 
her son, Captain William Wilberforce, M.C., The Hon. Mrs. 
Evelyn Hubbard (Vice -President) presided, and the 
Council stood in silent prayer for their President and 
her family in their great bereavement. A cross of flowers 
was sent to the funeral, which was to take place on the 
next day, as an expression of their deep sympathy. 

The Naval Division of the Mothers' Union, organised 
somewhat on the lines of the Army Division, was in 
augurated this year, and the work made a good start at 
Chatham. The hope that a special branch for the wives 
of sailors will be established in each naval seaport town 
seems now likely to be fulfilled. During the war the 
matter was not easy to organise. 

The Army Division during the w r ar lost many members 
owing to the soldiers' wives being dispersed all over the 
country while the men were at the front. Both the Army 
and the Naval Division are however re-organising hope 
fully at the present time. 

In 1918, during a tour made in Devon and Cornwall, 
the Central President was much impressed with the 
need felt by Branch workers, far from the Centre, for 
help in organising their work. Several " Organising 



146 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

Workers " were, therefore, appointed by the Central 
Council to travel when invited in the dioceses in order 
to meet Presiding and Enrolling Members and re-invigorate 
work that had waned or lapsed through lack of encourage 
ment. Six experienced " Organisers " were soon making 
tours and were greatly appreciated, especially in country 
places. This branch of work still continues, and more 
use might be made of the excellent help that is at the 
disposal of the dioceses. 

It was during Mrs. Wilberforce's administration that 
the last two home Diocesan Councils to accept the revised 
Constitution became affiliated to the Incorporated Mothers' 
Union, and so, in 1918, to the great satisfaction of the 
Central Council, the home organisation thus became 
complete. 

A third Missionary Worker Overseas was adopted in 
1918 by the Mothers' Union, in addition to those in 
Tinnevelly and Travancore. Miss Gibson, of the C.E.Z.M.S., 
was appointed to work specially for the Mothers' Union 
in the Punjab (Lahore Diocese). Miss Gibson endeared 
herself and her work to many hundreds of Mothers' 
Union members during her furlough in England — a time 
that was much prolonged owing, unfortunately, to her 
illness. Meanwhile the C.E.Z.M.S. suggested that the 
support of the Mothers' Union should be transferred to a 
Missionary in China, and Miss Loader is now its third 
worker in the Mission Field. Miss Loader has had long 
experience in Mothers' Union work among the Christian 
Chinese women in Fuh-Kien Diocese, and is greatly 
beloved by them. Miss Gibson has at last (1921) been 
able to return to Lahore Diocese, and she will work for 
the Mothers' Union on all possible occasions, although 
no longer definitely a M.U. Missionary Worker. 

In December, 1918, the Mothers' Union undertook 
an enquiry among its members to collect evidence and 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 147 

opinions upon the question of the Declining Birth Rate, 
its causes and remedies, thereby desiring to draw out a 
clear view of that which is intended in the first and second 
clauses of the Preface to the Office for the Solemnization 
of Matrimony, and to help in forming a worthy public 
opinion on the right and wrong use of the marriage state. 

1919. 

It was a matter of great regret to the whole Mothers' 
Union that Lady Jenkyns, who had founded and edited 
for thirty-one years the Mothers' Union Journal, felt 
obliged to resign her work. As the President truly said, 
it was impossible to overestimate Lady Jenkyns' work 
for the Mothers' Union — " possibly only second in value 
to that of Mrs. Sumner herself." A new editor had to be 
found, equal to the management, both literary and 
financial, of a large undertaking. Mrs. Carruthers, an 
experienced editor of some standing, a Mothers' Union 
Speaker and a member of its Literature Committee, was 
appointed. 

All three Magazines were handed over to the S.P.C.K. 
this year for publication, but, in 1921, it was found more 
practical to publish the Workers' Paper from the Central 
Office and to circulate it from there. 

The subject of the Declining Birth Rate again came 
before the Council, and in June, 1919, the following 
principle was agreed to: — 

" That as for all normal married persons it is a duty and 
an honour to accept God's gift of a family, we hold 
that a selfish limitation of children is wrong, and that 
all artificial checks to conception are against the law 
of nature and of God." 

The Central President communicated with the Arch 
bishops and Diocesan Bishops at home and overseas in 



148 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

April, 1919, «nd again in February, 1920, with the hope 
that further consideration to the principle at issue might 
be given at the Lambeth Conference in 1920. 

The splendid and self-sacrificing work of Mrs. John 
Clay in connexion with this subject of Birth Control 
must never be forgotten. The tribute paid to that work 
by one of the Bishops, at the time of the Lambeth Con 
ference (1920), may well be recorded here; namely, that 
not only had Mrs. Clay's efforts borne fruit within the 
Mothers' Union but that the whole Church might well 
acknowledge to her a debt of gratitude. 

On February 15th, 1919, the Queen, accompanied by 
the Princess Mary, most graciously paid a visit to the 
Mary Sumner House. The notice given to the Central 
President was very short, but as many members of the 
Central Council as could be communicated with in the 
time were present to meet Her Majesty and the Princess. 
The Queen showed the greatest interest in all that she 
saw, and examined the appointments of the Chapel, 
particularly the banner woven, designed and worked by 
the native members in Madagascar. The Literature 
and Overseas Departments specially held the attention 
of Her Majesty, and the kind words spoken to each member 
of the Staff by the Queen and the Princess will never be 
forgotten. Her Majesty and the Princess each signed her 
photograph and the visitors' book, and shortly afterwards 
a parcel of sixteen books for children arrived as a gift from 
the Queen to the Library, 

The elections, postponed from 1917, took place in 
June 1919. Mrs. Randall Davidson announced at the 
Central Council Meeting that everything possible had 
been dene to find a worthy successor to Mrs. Wilberforce, 
who was greatly in need of rest, but no one felt able to 
undertake the arduous office of Central President. Once 
more Mrs. Wilberforce most generously consented to 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 149 

put aside her own inclinations and to remain as Central 
President for another year. 

Now that the years of war had ended it seemed the 
moment for the Mothers' Union to look into its innermost 
workings, and to revive its membership by a missionary 
effort which would reach every individual member. The 
movement took shape as the " Campaign for Deepening 
Spiritual Life within the Mothers' Union." During the 
autumn and winter of 1919 and the spring of 1920, week 
by week, each Branch called itself to account. Special 
services and prayer meetings were arranged and in most 
cases an appointed worker — sometimes two or more — 
visited the branches and conducted a mission, calling 
upon every member in her own home. 

The effect of the Campaign is abundantly recognised 
though it can hardly be expressed in words. In quantity 
membership decreased, utterly unresponsive members or 
those whose membership was on paper only being removed 
from the Branch rolls, but the gain in quality was im 
measurable. Many lapsed branches revived, numbers of 
new branches were started, weak members were strength 
ened and new developments of the spiritual side of 
Mothers' Union work came into being. A solemn 
" Renewal of Membership " generally concluded each 
" Campaign Week," and many members for the 
first time were helped to understand the principles to 
which they had pledged their adherence, and — in the 
words of the Archbishop of Canterbury — to make the 
presence of the Lord Jesus Christ a " glowing reality " 
in their homes. After the earthquake and fire of war — 
the " still small voice." Such was the " Campaign." Its 
results rest with God. 

The Finances of the Mothers' Union had during the 
years of War been a cause of anxiety, and had the War 
continued another year it is probable that almost insur- 



150 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

mountable difficulties would have presented themselves. 
The increased cost of paper, publishing and labour was 
reducing the profits on the magazines and publications 
to a vanishing point, and on these profits the Society 
depended as its main source of income. It was plain at 
last that a more stable source of income must be found. 
The Council was asked to pass a scheme of finance whereby 
every member in the Mothers' Union should be required 
to pay a yearly tribute of sixpence, one penny of which 
should be sent to the Central Fund. This penny per head 
per member was to supersede the existing Diocesan Tribute 
of 2s. per Branch. 

The scheme was passed and came into operation in 
January 1920. Although it was hardly expected to work 
entirely smoothly during the first year, the result exceeded 
all expectations and almost reached the estimated possible 
amount. Members proved themselves not only willing 
but keenly desirous of sharing in the support of their 
" Union," and the fivepence per head left in each diocese 
is helping the diocesan and branch funds to meet their 
many claims. No longer is there any cleavage in the 
Mothers' Union between " Subscribing " and " Non- 
subscribing " Members. Every one subscribes to the 
extent of sixpence a year, and those who have received 
ability to do more, give of their means with readiness. 
The " Tribute " is gradually becoming recognised as yet 
another unifying force in the Mothers' Union — one not 
unworthy to be ranked with the spirit of fellowship 
evoked by the War and the influence of the Spiritual 
Campaign. 

1920. 

The last Council presided over by Mrs. Wilberforce 
was that of June 22nd, 1920, and the Dowager Countess 
of Chichester, on behalf of the Council, expressed the 
gratitude and appreciation extended by all to the President, 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 151 

who had so admirably directed the Mothers' Union during 
the past four and a half exceptionally difficult years. 

Mrs. Wilberforce was asked to accept two small 
offerings as a token of affection and esteem — a miniature 
of her son, the late Captain William Wilberforce, and a 
little fitted dressing-case. The President responded in 
a moving speech, thanking all who had worked with her 
for their loyal support and affection, and she commended 
to them the unfinished work to which the Mothers' Union 
had put its hand — the permanent " Mary Sumner House." 
The President also announced that Mrs. Hubert Barclay, 
Diocesan President of St. Albans, had been elected to 
succeed her and would take office in the autumn. 
Mrs. Wilberforce was asked to become a Vice-President, 
as was also the Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and 
Ava on her retirement as General President for the 
Mothers' Union in Ireland. 

A scheme for wider representation was passed at this 
Council — which operates from the humble Branch Com 
mittee throughout the various Deanery Committees and 
Diocesan Councils up to the Central Council itself. The 
effect on the latter has been to increase its numbers, as 
each diocese may now have three Representatives, the 
President, Diocesan Secretary and an Industrial Member.* 
Incorporated Members may now send Twenty-five Elected 
Members to the Council and may vote for them, at the 
time of election, by post if unable to be present at the 
General Meeting that year. 

On June 24th, 1920, the second Mass Meeting of the 
Mothers' Union was held in the Albert Hall, Kensington. 
The great building was filled with members and gay 
with colour, each branch bringing its own small banner 
and many dioceses a large and handsome standard. A 
protest against any further facilities for divorce being 
recognised by Parliament was sent by the ten thousand 
* See page 133. 



152 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

women present. Mrs. Wilberforce preoided and the 
Bishops of St. Albans (Dr. Michael Furse) and i;f Willochra 
(Dr. Gilbert White) addressed the Meeting. Madame 
Carrie Tubb brought tears to the eyes of most women 
present by her exquisite singing of " Home Sweet Home." 
A choir of 1000 voices (all M.TJ. members) had been trained 
by the Hon. Mrs. Cell, and the rendering of the hymns 
and choruses was most effective. 

Another far-reaching event of this summer was the 
Conference of Overseas Workers, held in July. For one 
week over 100 workers in the Mothers' Union from all 
parts of the world, assembled together at a house in 
London (kindly lent for the occasion) for devotion and 
conference. The Lambeth Conference had brought many 
Bishops' wives from Overseas to England, who were 
Diocesan Presidents in their own sphere of work. Many 
other Overseas workers came specially to England for 
this Mothers' Union Conference and the occasion was 
unique. 

It was a matter of regret that, owing to illness, 
Mrs. Wilberforce could only meet the delegates on the 
first and last day of the five. Mrs. Montgomery, the 
Countess of Harrowby, and Mrs. Harmer were all, in turn, 
admirable in the Chair, and Mrs. Hubert Barclay, so 
soon to take office as Central President, attended every 
meeting and endeavoured to become personally acquainted 
with each delegate. The Rev. M. Conran. S.S.J., acted 
as Chaplain of the Conference and conducted the Quiet 
Day which opened its proceedings. The keen discussions 
emphasised the fact that the needs and problems of 
motherhood are fundamentally the same all over the 
wide world, and for that reason the Mothers' Union is 
able to make its message understood by wives and mothers 
of every age and rank and race and clime. 



THE MOTHERS' UNION 158 



CHAPTER VI 



1920—1921. 

Central President : 
MRS. HUBERT BARCLAY. 

MRS. HUBERT BARCLAY'S first appointment in 
the Mothers' Union was that of Enrolling Member 
for the parish of Essendon, in Hertfordshire. 
Her power as a speaker and her grasp of organisation 
soon gained her a place on the Mothers' Union Council 
in St. Albans Diocese and in 1919 she became its President. 

During the War Mrs. Barclay had visited many of 
the great Y.M.C.A. Camps in the South of England and 
addressed large meetings of soldiers. Her gifts of leader 
ship are largely inherited from her father, Colonel Henry 
Smith Daniell, who fought in the Indian Mutiny and 
who, later on, was Chief of the Bombay Police and after 
wards, for many years, Chief Constable for Hertfordshire. 

Miss Edith Noel Daniell married in 1890 Hubert 
Frederick Barclay, a direct descendant of Robert Barclay, 
of Urie Castle, Aberdeenshire, the famous apologist for 
the Friends in the time of Charles II. The second of 
Colonel and Mrs. Hubert Barclay's three sons fell in the 
Great War; thus was the present Central President as 
well as her two predecessors given a direct entry into 
the heart of bereaved motherhood throughout the Empire. 

To Mrs. Barclay's talent as an artist the 1922 Almanac 
will testify; the kindness which inspired her to devote 
several weeks to patient work in Westminster Abbey, 



154 A SHORT HISTORY OF 

in order that the mothers of unknown heroes should have 
their own picture of the Warrior's Grave, will be as uni 
versally appreciated as the picture itself. 

The new Central President's first Council was that of 
December 1st and 2nd, 1920. Its chief feature was the 
issue of a statement clearly defining the " Sanctity of 
Marriage," as understood by the Mothers' Union ever 
since its foundation as a Church Society. 

Mrs. Gore Browne, speaking for her mother, Mrs. 
Sumner, testified that the Foundress always understood 
the word " Sanctity " to include indissolubility. 

In view of the more varied interpretations of the 
present day the Council passed a resolution, defining the 
meaning of the First Object in the following words : — 

" To uphold the sanctity of marriage as a life-long and 
indissoluble union, for better for worse, of one man and 
one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side." 



1921. 

The June Conference Week at Chester is so fresh a 
memory to all privileged to enjoy its varied programme 
that it is only necessary to record anew with gratitude 
and deep appreciation the kindness of the Bishop and 
the Dean, the perfection of the arrangements made by 
the Chester Diocesan Council and by its President, 
Mrs. W. H. Johnson, and the abounding hospitality that 
Chester bestowed on the four hundred invaders within 
its walls. 

On June 26th, the occasion of their diamond wedding, 
Sir David and Lady Horatia Erskine were sent a telegram 
conveying the hearty congratulations of the Central 
Council. A few months later, on September 7th, Sir 
David Erskine, always a faithful friend of the Mothers' 
Union, passed into the Life Beyond. 



MOTHERS' UNION 155 

As the events surrounding another Passing, that of the 
beloved Foundress, have been fully and lovingly described 
in the first part of this book, it only remains for the 
History to record that Mrs. Sumner was called to her 
rest on August llth, 1921, and that the funeral took 
place at Winchester on August 15th. 

Many important matters are engaging the attention 
of the Mothers' Union at the present time, all of which 
call for earnest thought and prayer, to be followed by 
wise, concerted action. The danger to young people 
lurking in the modern cinema can only be overcome by 
the establishment of better class picture houses with 
attractive films of wholesome character, and by legislation 
which will protect lads and girls from suggestive and 
low-toned picture stories, and from conditions within 
the palaces which make for unseemly behaviour. 

A still more hideous danger to " Christ's little ones " 
is the teriible and blasphemous teaching given in anti- 
Christian Sunday Schools. The Campaign against this 
evil in our midst can only be fought under the direction 
of the Spirit of " wisdom, counsel and ghostly strength" — 
for its insidiousness makes an open attack upon it well- 
nigh impossible. All that will be required of the Mothers' 
Union during 1922 cannot be known beforehand, but it is 
fully recognised by the Central Council that its forces 
must be rallied to save Christ's fold from the wolves 
that are packing to destroy first the lambs and then the 
Hock. 

Yet another Mass Meeting for Mothers was held in 
London during the autumn of 1921 — this time in the 
Queen's Hall, Langham Place. Addresses were given on 
Couitship, Marriage and Motherhood, and each subject 
was handled quite fearlessly, yet raised to a height which 
touched the sublime. 

In an age when a low ideal and much false teaching 



156 THE MOTHERS' UNION 

with regard to sex relationship is being put forth in every 
section of the community as part of a gospel of individual 
ism, it behoves the Mothers' Union to offer a clear state 
ment of the purposes of God for mankind, as revealed 
in the Bible and in the history of the human race, to the 
parents of to-day and of to-morrow. 

And so — in days full of grievous anxiety but never 
theless of glorious hope and boundless opportunities — 
these opening chapters of the Historjr of the Mothers' 
Union are brought to an end. That history is but begun. 
In words recently spoken by the present Central President : 
" We will go forward as a Union in the highest and best 
meaning of that word — in unity of prayer, unity of service, 
unity of sympathy, and unity of heart -felt enthusiasm — 
viewing every problem of the present and future in the 
light of Christ's teaching — believing, humbly but con 
fidently, that God has still a great work for us to do — 
work for which we must ever be ready and prepared, as 
the instrument in His hand to be used for His purpose." 



BV MARY SUMMER, HER LIFE 

4445 AND WORK 

.S9M3 

118432 

BV